Manufacturing News

Non-traditional employment must be addressed in OHS Review

THE national Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Review must seize the opportunity to create a framework that reflects current labour market practices, the RCSA (Recruitment & Consulting Services Association) argues in its submission to the Review.

According to Julie Mills, CEO of the RCSA, OHS legislation in Australia is outdated in the way it treats third party employment services and assigns liabilities.

She also said that this lack of relevance actually reduces the ability of such employers to protect the health and safety of their workforce.

“The RCSA submission argues that addressing OHS issues in the on-hire sector is difficult because Australian OHS law focuses on traditional, two party work relationships.

“However there are several other models where a third party is involved, including on-hired employee services, contracting services and contractor management services.

“Such arrangements – where there are multiple employers responsible for the same workers leads to overlapping duties and liabilities which breed confusion and inefficiency,” she said.

Mills says legislation that assigns the same duties to multiple parties creates confusion, which ultimately jeopardises the safety of on-hired workers, but this can be avoided by assigning clear and unambiguous “interlocking” duties based on the source and ability to effectively control the risk, makes practical sense

The RCSA, together with other employer groups such as the Master Builders Association, recommends that the national OHS laws be based on the Victorian law. However, it believes that the issue of multiple duty holders and control requires special attention.

“When both third-party and host employers are meant to be in control of workplace risk, the duplicated roles confuse the lines of responsibility.

“Moreover, there are some aspects of risk that are genuinely impossible for the third party employer to control,” Mills said.

The RCSA proposes an amendment that sets out separate duties for each party, based on their power to control each aspect.

The on-hire employer would control the recruitment process, inducting staff into their own safety and complaints system, assessing and matching staff to vacancies and satisfying themselves that the host employer has adequate safety systems in place.

Host organisations would have control over the premises, plant and processes, together with on-site induction training and supervision of the on-hired worker.

The RCSA says that attention to details such as these will lead to improved safety outcomes and reduced red tape.

“After many years of the on-hire sector being left out of the OHS equation, this national review presents a unique opportunity to take the best of what’s already out there, and improve it further.

“We hope that the new model will be designed to reflect the way Australians work today, and that it is fair, reasonable and workable for both employers and their employees.”

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