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The focus of safety responsibilities in the New Zealand Forest Operations Approved Code of Practice is under review.

“The current Code of Practice is more focused on the ‘worker on the hill’. We want to ensure management, owners and other parties in the contracting chain are absolutely clear about their responsibilities,” said the chair of WorkSafe New Zealand Professor Gregor Coster.

Forestry owners, managers and contractors must do more to protect the men and women on the bush line, Coster said.

In addition to WorkSafe’s inquiry, Coster and the WorkSafe NZ Chief Executive, General Managers and Chief Inspectors are meeting with owners and managers in the forestry sector.

“These face-to-face meetings build on the 164 inspections undertaken since August 2013 which have resulted in more than 200 enforcement actions, including 14 operations being shut down,” stated WorkSafe NZ.

For more details, visit WorkSafe.

Published on 13 February 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

The federal government’s bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) is before another Senate Committee for further scrutiny.

The Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 was initially vetted by a Senate Committee late last year.

On 2 December the Committee’s government members recommended that the bill pass the Senate. However, the ALP and Greens members concluded that the bill should be rejected.

Among the ALP’s concerns was the bill’s proposal to extend the reach of the ABCC’s powers to picketing, offshore construction and the transport and supply of goods to building sites.

“This proposal would subject industries beyond the building and construction industry to unnecessary legislation and judicial complication, which could in theory lead to disengagement of the logistics industry from the building and construction industry proper,” the ALP’s dissenting report said.

The Greens also recommend rejecting the bill. “The [first] ABCC was biased in its work as it was driven by an ideological attack on construction workers and unions,” the Greens’ dissenting report said.

“Further, in recent years Australia’s construction industry laws have been condemned by the International Labour Organization six times. For these reasons the Australian Greens reject the bills in their entirety.”

Since then the bill has been re-referred to another Committee to re-examine the government’s approach to re-establishing the ABCC.

According to the second Committee’s terms of reference, this includes assessing “the extreme and heavy-handed proposed powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, including coercive powers, conduct of compulsory interviews, and imprisonment for those who do not cooperate”.

The bill was referred to the second Committee on 4 December. Submissions are due tomorrow, with the committee expected to report on the last sitting day in March.

For more details, visit the second Senate Inquiry.

Published on 16 January 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

Legislation has been introduced into the New South Wales parliament to ensure work health and safety (WHS) prosecutions aren’t thrown out on a technicality.

The Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2013 clarifies that the District Court and the Local Court have jurisdiction over WHS prosecutions brought under the repealed Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2000.

The OHS Act 2000 was repealed and replaced with the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011 in January 2012.

Under transitional arrangements, serious prosecutions brought under the OHS Act were to be dealt with in the District Court instead of the Industrial Court, where they were previously heard, said NSW Minister for Finance and Services Andrew Constance in the bill’s second reading speech.

The bill also clarifies the validity of the WHS Regulations 2011 and that proceedings may be brought and prosecuted by a legal practitioner representing a WorkCover inspector or the regulator.

The District Court’s jurisdiction and the other matters had been challenged in the following cases:

Empire Waste Pty Ltd and Dean Baldwin v District Court of NSW and Inspector Steven Brock; Australian Native Landscapes Pty Ltd v Inspector Nathan McDonald and District Court of NSW; and Attorney General for the State of NSW v Built NSW Pty Ltd and Air Conditioning Engineering Services Pty Ltd.

The amendments aim to prevent such challenges in the future. They also allow prosecutions that were terminated on the technicalities addressed in the bill to be recommenced, said Constance.

For more details, visit the second reading speech and the bill.

Published on 24 October 2013 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

The Federal Government wants a zero tolerance approach to safety breaches and for judicial bodies to rethink the direction of their decisions.

Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz delivered this news in his keynote address at the 2013 NSCA/GIO National Safety Awards of Excellence last week.

He acknowledged the “huge” social as well as economic dimensions of safety, and said the Government would be taking a zero tolerance approach to safety.

He said the chances of achieving zero injuries and deaths were unlikely, but the Government would set out to reach this goal.

The Government would also be looking at the regulatory regime and encouraging judicial and other bodies to consider the direction their decisions have been heading.

He referred to a Fair Work Commission decision that ordered the reinstatement of a worker who had been dismissed for not wearing protective equipment.

After his speech he said the Government had no plans to change the Fair Work Act in response.

He also repeated the Government’s line of wanting to reduce red tape and employer costs and to take a practical and common-sense approach to safety. However, he was unable provide any details at this stage.

He said bringing Victoria and Western Australia into the harmonisation tent was on the agenda. But again no detail was available about how he would do this.

During his speech, he also acknowledged the good work of the outgoing Safe Work Australia CEO Rex Hoy, noting that Hoy did more than warm the seat.

WHS changes are likely now that the Coalition has won federal government.

Bullying laws and the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal are among the national policies earmarked for change, as reported in the previous edition e-bulletin.

A judicial inquiry into the ALP’s defunct home insulation scheme is also on the Coalition’s to-do list. This was also reported in the previous edition e-bulletin.

However, the Coalition has promised not to change right of entry provisions for unions to investigate health and safety breaches.

But it has said the Australian Building and Construction Commission will be reinstated.

No changes will occur to safety or other policy until after late October.

Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott told Sydney radio 2UE on Monday that the first sitting of parliament would be in late October / early November because he needed time to draft legislation.

The Coalition frontrunner to take over the Workplace Relations portfolio is Senator Eric Abetz from Tasmania. He held the shadow portfolio in Opposition.

For more details, visit the Coalition.

Published on 12 September 2013 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.


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