The state of Australia’s OHS laws

Ken Wood* looks at how the harmonisation of OH&S laws will impact on industry.

Ken Wood* looks at how the harmonisation of OH&S laws will impact on industry.

ANNUALLY my small consulting company conducts a forklift safety forum for clients in South Australia covering a myriad of issues affecting the sector.

Following the completion of this year’s session, it struck me how difficult it is for companies to operate in this country, especially those of whom have operations in numerous Australian states and territories with different corresponding compliance authorities.

In a mirror image of the problems we face today regarding federation of Australia, the same issues are at play in our antiquated OH&S system.

With a raft of different penalties and standards, no wonder companies throw their hands up in despair.

The current system is a hindrance to business and increasingly entrepreneurs cite this as a major reason for not investing in Australia.

An example of how disjointed the current system is comes with the introduction of new legislation regarding the introduction High Risk Work, a new licensing system for forklifts which was planned to be uniformly introduced nationally .

Some States have already applied the legislation whilst others, including South Australia, have been very slow to act or communicate its intentions to industry.

This again causes confusion, and personally, I have received many requests for information from my clients and even assessors when we might expect the changes.

Unfortunately this causes a decoration of confidence in regulatory authorities at a time when they have working to be more transparent in their activities and improve education within the community.

So it is with great joy that at last the Rudd Government will press ahead with plans to consolidate the various systems into a national scheme within five years, although it remains to be seen if rhetoric can be converted into action and accepted by the different States.

One system would provide certainty for both employers and employees in the workplace.

There is evidence that the various regulatory authorities are beginning to work in concert with one another, hopefully this will continue and as a team they can arrive at innovative solutions which can be views as world’s best practice.

Too underline just how much work we still have in front of us comes one day after our safety forum, when another forklift fatality was recorded in New South Wales.

While the unified laws will not necessarily prevent tragedies such as this, a national perspective on the problem can give us focus and dare I say it, additional funds to have a strong education system to continually reinforce the need to improve our awareness of safety in the workplace.

*Ken Wood is the Director of Safety Awareness Forklift Equipment 1800 555 678.