LAWS8311 Occupational Health And Safety Law

LAWS8311 Occupational Health And Safety Law

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LAWS8311 Occupational Health And Safety Law

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LAWS8311 Occupational Health And Safety Law

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Course Code: LAWS8311
University: Australian National University is not sponsored or endorsed by this college or university

Country: Australia

Critique the OHS in Australia.

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), which is commonly known as Workplace Heath and Safety (WHS) includes the evaluation and mitigation of the risks which have an ability of impacting the welfare, the health and the safety of the ones in the place of work. This not only includes the employees but also the consumers, volunteers, suppliers, contractors and visitors (Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, 2017). In the following parts, an attempt has been made to analyse the status of OHS in Australia, in terms of its historical background, the role of OHS legislation and the challenges which require improvements to be brought in OHS.
Before 2012, each and every state and territory of Australia had its own health and safety act, where requirements were set out for making certain that the place of work was safe and healthy. Through these acts, the requirements were set out for the general responsibility which relates to the groups of people regarding their role at the workplace.  To support these acts, regulations were forced, and these helped in setting the standards which had to be attained for managing the hazards at workplace in terms of manual handling, chemicals, noise and machinery. However, in 2008, the government of Australian Commonwealth, in addition to the governments of state and territory signed an intergovernmental agreement for agreeing upon the harmonization of the health and safety laws in the nation. After a lot of consultations, each jurisdiction brought out its WHS acts which were mirrored in the legislation of the other states and even in the commonwealth act (Archer et al 2014).
Through harmonised law, the stakeholders were able to obtain a legislative clarity irrespective of the state they operated it and particularly at such instances where the work was spread across different states. This also helped the government in reducing the expenditure for developing separate OHS laws. Most importantly, the business became clear on these laws despite the state they operated in, which resulted in lower compliance costs as the laws divergence only in minimal aspects, reducing the need of training and the need of local subject experts was also reduced (Hattingh, Low and Forrester, 2013).  
As a result of the applicability of WHS regulations, obligations are raised for the individuals working in business and majorly for the person running the business. These obligations are owed to themselves and to their workmates by the people working in the workplace. As a result of this, the individuals are required to follow the instructions which are given in the matter of WHS, they have to ensure that there is no wilful injury to self and also the others are not put at risk. The workers are to be provided the requisite personal protective equipment, in addition to be trained in using these, and have to refrain from recklessly or wilfully interfering with or misusing the things which are provided for WHS at workplace (Stoll, McGill and Ritchie, 2013).
As a result of these legislations, the health and safety of the workers is ensured and in such cases where the same is compromised, a system of rehabilitation and compensation is adopted which ensures that the workers are not put at disadvantage in case they are injured at workplace. The OHS legislations help in creating a surety for the workers that they would be properly protected at workplace, which allows them to enjoy the standards at the highest levels in terms of their basic human rights being accessible in an easy manner to them. Irrespective of the work undertaken by the workers, particularly based on its nature, the workers are required to carry out their obligations in a secure and safe working environment, which is free from hazards (Safe At Work, 2017). Thus, these legislations help in shaping an attitude in the public regarding WHS. These are coupled with the high compensations which have to be paid by the business owners in case the provisions of WHS legislations are not upheld.
In SafeWork NSW v Newcastle Stevedores Pty Ltd [2016] NSWDC 294, an employee, Greg Fitzgibbon of Newcastle Stevedores Pty Ltd was fatally injured due to the stacks of ingots falling over him and crushing him. As a result of the contravention of section 19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 in terms of non compliance of duties, the defendant was charged under section 32 of this act. And the defendant was fined $150,000 for this breach (New South Wales, 2016). In 2016, Kylie Grieg had to be admitted in the hospital owing to horrific burns which he suffered while working at KFC. These burns were suffered after falling in boiling water where his arms, hands, nose, belly and cheeks were seriously damaged (Stuff, 2015). KFC was held to have contravened the provisions of Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA), which led to the Industrial Court imposing a penalty of $105,000 plus costs on the fast food giant (Safe Work SA, 2017).
Even though such cases put faith in the minds of the workers which results in a positive attitude being shaped towards the WHS norms, it does pose difficulties for the businesses. This is particularly in context where there is a difference in perspectives of what proper safety measures are deemed by the court and what are deemed by the injured party or the court. For instance, KFC did not deliberately put the worker in the boiling water, and boiling water is a part of the business of the fast food chain, which cannot be eliminated. And yet an incident took place, which shows that often the employers can be unfairly made liable for such incidents. As a result of one incident, the company also gained bad community attitude in terms of being non complaint company.
On the basis of this discussion, it can thus be concluded that WHS norms in Australia are quiet effective. The workers are properly protected where they are paid compensation if their right to work in a safe environment is breached. However, these provisions do seem harsh in such situations where even after using the proper safety measures, a worker is injured, for which the company has to bear the loss in terms of compensation.
Archer, R. et al. (2014) WHS: A Management Guide. Victoria: Cengage Learning.
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. (2017) What is Workplace health and safety (WHS)? [Online] Australian Government. Available from: [Accessed on: 17/11/17]
Hattingh, L., Low, J.S., and Forrester, K. (2013) Australian Pharmacy Law and Practice. 2nd ed. Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier Australia.
New South Wales. (2016) SafeWork NSW v Newcastle Stevedores Pty Ltd [2016] NSWDC 294. [Online] New South Wales. Available from: [Accessed on: 17/11/17]
Safe At Work. (2017) What is OHS? [Online] Safe At Work. Available from: [Accessed on: 17/11/17]
SafeWork SA. (2017) KFC convicted for safety breach. [Online] SafeWork SA. Available from: [Accessed on: 17/11/17]
Stoll, M., McGill, C., and Ritchie, J. (2013) Work Health and Safety. Sydney, NSW: McGraw-Hill Education Australia.
Stuff. (2015) Teenager suffers serious burns working at Australian KFC. [Online] Stuff. Available from: [Accessed on: 17/11/17]

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