Harmonising Occupational Health and Safety Laws in Australia
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) issues became abundant during the industrial revolution in the UK (Tooma, 2008). The laws agreed upon by the government at the time did little to stop the number of deaths and workplace injuries/illnesses. The UK government in 1972 commissioned a committee chaired by Lord Robens in 1972 to review industrial health and safety. The committee published a report ‘Robens Report’ which addressed “the state of industrial safety” (Tooma, 2008), this brought about changes in work force policies and increased the accountability of an employer. The Robens Report was “critical of active inspection and enforcement regime as the main driver to compliance, preferring a self regulation model” (Tooma, 2008).
The regulatory framework developed as a result of the Robens report was adopted by the Australian Government. This is the basis of our current Occupational Health and Safety Act (1985). At present Australia’s approach to OHS has been non uniform, with the six states, two territories and one commonwealth regulating their own workplaces. Australia also enforces ‘a number of specific statutes covering public safety and OHS in industries such as mining and maritime industry, transport, electricity and dangerous goods.’ (Johnstone. 2008).
There are several difficulties faced by Australian employers under the current system. Firstly, “workers in different jurisdictions who face similar risks are afforded different levels of legal protection” (Johnstone, 2008). Secondly, companies that operate in several jurisdictions will have inconsistent standards across their work places. As a result of these difficulties, it was advantageous for companies to operate in jurisdictions with relaxed regulations. Consequently governments across Australia were forced to reduce the levels of OHS standards and enforcement” (Johnstone, 2008). This affected which states/territories companies pursued there...