Work health and safety protections would be watered down under Safe Work Australia proposals.
Federation has supported Unions NSW’s call for the State Government to reject all of the recommended changes presented to a Safe Work Australia meeting.
The Safe Work Australia review, conducted at Council of Australian Government (COAG)’s request, proposes that the Work Health and Safety regulations, which provide details on how to achieve the standards required under the Work Health and Safety Act such as identifying hazards and managing risks, be replaced by non-legally enforceable guidelines.
The current Work Health and Safety regulations provide strong support for workers’ health and safety, especially their consultation rights when assessing and minimising risks.
The regulations set out the requirements around the election and powers of Health and Safety Representatives. They also ensure that appropriate support and training is provided to assist the representatives to perform their role. The proposals would change these requirements to recommendations.
The regulations also set out minimum requirements for resolving safety issues or disputes.
Reduced requirements around maintenance of an asbestos register, first aid provision, and management, storage and handling of chemicals are also proposed.
The proposals would also reduce existing requirements about remote or isolated work, monitoring for deafness, minimising flammable and combustible material, minimising the risk of falls, guarding of equipment, and high-risk work.
If the NSW Government introduces the Safe Work proposals workers’ health and safety rights will be undermined. The government’s cuts to workers compensation entitlements have severely disadvantaged workers while benefiting employers with a 17.5 per cent reduction in premiums.
Removing regulations from the Work Health and Safety Act could increase the risk of workers suffering injury and illness while engaged in their duties.
Unions NSW is coordinating a campaign to maintain existing health and safety rights as well as to restore injured workers’ entitlements to a fairer system of workers compensation. Federation supports the campaign and urges members to sign the Unions NSW petition.