Occupational Health and Safety Audit Assessment

Excerpt from Assessment :

At which point, the Howard government would begin to pass a series of amendments to the Workplace Relations Act of 1996 (Work Choices). This would change the relationship between employers and employees once more. Where, a number of new regulations were implemented to include: the formation of federal system of regulations, the creation of the Australian Fair Pay Commission (to set minimum wage standards), increasing the life of various labor contracts from a maximum of three to five years, the creation of five minimum workplace conditions, exemptions for companies with less than 101 employees from unfair dismissal laws and increased restrictions on what union activities were allowed in workplace. ("Work Choices Legislation," 2006) This is important, because it highlights a shift that is taking place, in the labor relationship between employers and employees. As far as occupational health and safety is concerned, this would change how employees would be defined in a controlled labor relationship. Where, the employer would have greater flexibility in how they would classify everyone. As far as health and safety is concerned, this is huge advantage that many businesses would have, as they could systematically avoid the various legal precedents and their roles / responsibilities for different safety related issues.

In 2009, after the Howard government was defeated by Labor, they began to reverse the changes that took place. This is because of the concerns that both regulations went too far, in giving employers an unfair advantage over employees from: the Workplace Relations Act of 1996 and Work Choices. Where, individuals were slowly loosing the various protections that they were awarded, under various case law precedents.

This would lead to the passage of the Fair Works Act of 2009.This would was based off of the various changes that were imposed from: the Workplace Relations Act of 1996 and Work Choices. What happened was these two laws, would change the way various businesses and employers would interact with one another. Given the fact that federal standards applied throughout the commonwealth, meant that a similar law must be enacted that will follow the same basic model, but will provide increased amounts of protections for employees. To achieve this objective, the act calls for the establishment of Fair Works Australia. This office would work in conjunction with, the Office of Fair Work Ombudsman, where the two agencies would regulate the national system of workplace regulations (by replacing seven different departments throughout the government). As a result, Fairs Work Australia has taken on a number of different responsibilities to include: determining awards, the power to regulate minimum wages / good faith bargaining / industrial action, deciding unfair claims and approving agreements. This is in response to the different provisions of the act that are seeking to address, the unfair advantages that many employers had under: the Workplace Relations Act of 1996 and Work Choices. As the new law, would establish ten different national employment standards to include: maximum weekly working hours, annual leave, parental leave / entitlements, the right to request flexible working arrangements, public holidays, long service leaves, community service leaves, personal / compassionate leaves, notice of termination / redundancy pay and providing employees with a Fair Work Information Sheet (this details the rights / entitlements of employees along with telling them how to seek out the proper advice). At the same time, the various rules for collective bargaining were streamlined, as both businesses and employees could negotiate in good faith efforts, without having to utilize formal channels ("Fair Work Act 2009," 2010). This is significant, because it shows how the overall nature of work relations has changed, because of globalization. Where, the existing work rules and the lack of federal standards would cause Australia, to face a number of different challenges in remaining competitive. This would lead to the passage of the Workplace Relations Act of 1996 and Work Choices. Where, both would give more of an advantage to employers over employees. As far as health and safety is concerned, this would allow employers to be able to circumvent the various case law precedents and previous regulations. The problem was that many of the different protections for employees were being slowly taken away. To mitigate these effects, the Fair Works Act of 2009 would seek to address these imbalances, by working within the federal framework, while improving the overall amounts of protections that employees would have. As it outlines, ten different areas that would increase, the number safeguards for employees.

What this shows, is a shift that occurred in the way various employer and employee relations are conducted. As the pendulum would swing to one extreme and then back to the middle. The big issue going forward is: how these different changes will impact previous case law precedent and the nature of this relationship. As far as employee health and safety is concerned, this will change the roles / responsibilities of both parties, because the regulations have evolved to the point that previous court rulings as well as case law precedent may no longer be necessary. At which point, this relationship will change, to reflect the realities of what are occurring in the economy and the business.

How the New Regulations have Changed Occupational Health and Safety?

Like what stated previously, we will be examining BHP Billiton, to see the true effects that the new laws are having on: the issue of employee occupational health and safety. Currently, the entire mining industry is regulated throughout the commonwealth under: the Mine and Safety Inspection Act of 1994. This would define various occupational health and safety standards for mines in Western Australia. Under the act, there are three different provisions that are covered to include: duties, inspections and penalties. Duties are the various responsibilities that the employer and employees will have in a work environment. With the act stating, "It is the employer's duty to provide and maintain at a mine, a working environment, in which employees are not exposed to hazards." At the same time, the act states that employees must, "Take reasonable care, to ensure his or her, own safety and health at work." (Spear, 2010) This is important, because it defines the roles and responsibilities of both parties in the mining industry.

Inspections are when the act is creating, numerous inspectors on a number of different levels such as: district as well as special inspectors (to examine the safety of the plant / mine). At the same time, there is also the employee inspector. These are regulators who will investigate and prosecute anyone who is found to be in violation of the act. This is important, because it establishes a basic foundation, for how various mines will be inspected and how those who violate the provisions of the law will be prosecuted. (Spear, 2010)

The different penalties for those who are in violation of the law are: $200.00 per day for employees and $2,000.00 day for corporations. This is important, because it establishes a mechanism for punishing those, who knowingly violate the law. With it applying to the actions of both: employers and employees in a work environment. (Spear, 2010)

This is significant, because it shows how various provisions of mining safety laws, must applied equally within the work environment. Where, both employers and employees have a responsibility to maintain high mining safety standards. As a result, this law would establish a foundation as to how mining companies and their employees should be addressing the issue of mine safety.

When you apply these different laws and the new changes to BHP Billiton, it is clear that they are using various loopholes to be able to circumvent them. What is happening, the recent regulations that were enacted have given employers greater flexibility, in who they consider to be contractual workers and actual employees. Where, the different regulations have made it easier for employers; to call employees "contractors," even though a control relationship exists. This problematic, because it means that many employees have less protections. Despite the fact that the Fair Works Act of 2009, was seeking restore some kind of balance between protecting need of employers; while ensuring that the proper amounts of safeguards are in place for employees. A good example of this can be seen, by looking at information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Where, they found that 41% of laborers were without paid leave entitlements. This is despite the fact that Fair Works Act of 2009 was supposed to address these issues. Commenting about these different figures, Sydney University Social and Political Scientist, Professor Salvatore Babones said, "Australia has long been thought of as a classless society but the rise in casual employment indicates the emergence of class dominance. Employer organizations benefit and the working people suffer. The Labor Government does not encourage casual employment but they don't challenge it either." (Phillips, 2010) This is significant, because it highlights a shift that is occurring in the overall amount of protections that employees have. As far as health and safety…

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