Regulating Workplace Risks
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Regulating Workplace Risks

A Comparative Study of Inspection Regimes in Times of Change

David Walters, Richard Johnstone, Kaj Frick, Michael Quinlan, Geneviève Baril-Gingras and Annie Thébaud-Mony

It examines the implications of the shift from specification to process based regulation, in which attention has been increasingly directed to the means of managing OHS more systematically at a time in which a major restructuring of work has occurred in response to the globalised economy. These changes provide both the context and material for a wider discussion of the nature of regulation and regulatory inspection and their role in protecting the health, safety and well-being of workers in advanced market economies.
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Chapter 4: The Shift to Occupational Health and Safety Process Standards in Australia

David Walters, Richard Johnstone, Kaj Frick, Michael Quinlan, Geneviève Baril-Gingras and Annie Thébaud-Mony


INTRODUCTION Health and safety at work in Australia has been explicitly regulated since 1873. While it is true to say that Australian OHS regulation from the outset has been heavily influenced by the approach taken in the UK, since the 1980s it has to some extent exhibited some distinctive Australian characteristics. This chapter introduces OHS regulation in Australia. After providing a brief outline of the Australian political, economic, social and industrial relations framework, the chapter then explains how, from the late 1970s, Australian OHS regulation moved from a reliance on detailed, technical specification standards, to a ‘general duties’ model, which increasingly required duty-holders (particularly employers) to adopt risk-management approaches. From the late 1980s, as part of a national uniformity process under the auspices of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC), OHS regulations and codes of practice underpinning the general duties were largely recast to require duty-holders to follow risk-management processes when addressing specific hazards. From 2004 several OHS statutes explicitly required duty-holders to implement riskmanagement processes when complying with the general duties. Legislative reforms beginning in the 1970s also gave OHS inspectorates administrative sanctions (improvement and prohibition notices, and in some jurisdictions infringement notices) and recently the power to accept enforceable undertakings from duty-holders. The traditional right to prosecute was strengthened by significantly raising the level of fines available to the courts, and lately, by vesting some courts with non-pecuniary sanctions such as the power to order court-ordered publicity and OHS projects. 65 Columns...

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