West Australian workers are calling on the state government not to leave them with second rate safety by ignoring the national harmonisation of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Ged Kearney said there is concern that workers will have less robust levels of safety at work in a state where the booming mining industry is creating more jobs.
She believes that workers in WA should have the same OHS standards and protections as in other states and territories, but are set to be left behind when the new system comes in on 01 January because of the state’s stubborn refusal to join the new uniform OHS system.
‘West Australian workers and their families deserve the same standard of workplace safety as workers in the rest of Australia. It makes no sense for WA to have lower standards and protections than the rest of the nation,’ said Kearney.
Kearney said a WA worker was killed almost every two weeks, while someone was seriously injured at work every 30 minutes, yet the state government’s refusal to legislate for safety showed a complete lack of value for their lives.
The WA Government is yet to release its draft harmonisation legislation but has stated it will not sign up to five key points of the new national laws, including an increase in the maximum penalty for negligent employers to $3 million.
Kearney said WA should sign up to an OHS system which allows trained Health and Safety Representatives to direct work to stop when they see a serious and imminent safety problem and protects workers from discrimination for raising health and safety issues.
It should also enable the family or union of someone killed at work to initiate a prosecution against the employer if the state WorkSafe authority declines to and enable workers’ union representatives to have timely access to a workplace to provide important advice when it is needed.