NSW workplace safety row intensifies

The NSW Minerals Council has appealed to the Federal Government to override NSW’s “undemocratic and draconian” occupational health and safety (OHS) laws as part of its national harmonisation review.

The NSW Minerals Council has appealed to the Federal Government to override NSW’s “undemocratic and draconian” occupational health and safety (OHS) laws as part of its national harmonisation review.

NSW Minerals Council CEO Dr Nikki Williams recently described NSW’s OHS laws as a national disgrace, where accused people are deprived of basic legal and human rights, and has called on the State Government to immediately act to reform the state laws.

“I have written to Premier Iemma stating that murderers, child sex offenders and Guantanamo Bay detainees have greater legal rights than employers in NSW, including the presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” Dr Williams said.

“Our submission to the National Review Panel clearly states that as part of the mining industry’s unequivocal commitment to zero injuries in the workplace, the national harmonisation process will be a crucial mechanism for achieving best practice national safety outcomes.

“It will also be an opportunity to eliminate inefficiencies for companies and individuals operating in multiple State or Territory jurisdictions. NSW should not have to wait any longer for fair laws that put workplace safety ahead of long dead industrial battlegrounds.”

Dr Williams said recent comments by John Della Bosca (when he was Minister for Industrial Relations) that the national harmonisation process was a push for a “lowest common denominator approach to safety” was an insult to the many stakeholders who have worked in good faith with the Government for many years to reform the OHS laws and improve safety outcomes for workers.

“It is a well known fact that although NSW has highly punitive legislation where an absolute liability regime prevails, yet the State still has one of the worst safety records in Australia,” Dr Williams said.

Dr Williams said the NSW absolute liability regime contravenes the International Labour Organisation’s ILO Convention 155 – to which Australia is a signatory.

“Australian employees and employers deserve a 21st century OHS framework which supports continuous improvement in identifying and responding to workplace hazards and risks, that encourages reporting and evaluation of incidents, that rewards innovation and prosecutes negligence. Such a framework cannot be served by the current two-tiered legal system that deprives employers of fair process and their human rights,” Dr Williams said.

Key contact:

NSW Minerals Council

information@nswmin.com.au

www.nswmin.com.au

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