UnionsWA has today commented on the release by the McGowan Government of major report recommending urgently needed reforms to work health and safety laws in WA. These laws cover workplaces for the vast majority of working West Australians and are essential for preventing work-related death, injury and illness.
Owen Whittle, Assistant Secretary, UnionsWA said:
“WA has a most dangerous mix of industries yet among the weakest of health and safety protections under law in Australia.
“Nationally the rate of work fatalities has declined, but not in WA.
“The last time these laws were reformed significantly was in 1984, when our national anthem was still “God Save The Queen”.
“Well may we say “God Save The Queen”, but for the rest of us at work we rely on strong health and safety laws.
“The role of workplace health and safety representatives and unions is vital.
“The recommendations in this report will ensure that OH & S Representatives are not narrowly restricted in their powers to prevent injury or fatality to only small work groups, have access to proper training and protections from undue pressure.
“Too many employers view health and safety as a short-term cost issue, rather than a long-term prevention strategy.
“In too many workplaces the only way to prevent risk is to down tools and this report recommends stronger protections to ensure the safety of working people and the public.
“The report also proposed a right for unions to prosecute civil offences for breaches of safety laws.
“Frankly, across the many tens of thousands of workplaces in WA, unions are the only cop on the beat, after years of reduced funding to WorkSafe there are simply not enough health and safety inspectors.”
The full report, “Modernising work health and safety laws in Western Australia” is available online here.
Details of state-wide consultation forums, and to RSVP for these, see details online here.