||Issue No. 307||19 May 2006|
Open for Business?
Interview: Out of the Bedroom
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Legal: The Fantasy of Choice
Politics: Labor Pains
Economics: Economics and the Public Purpose
Corporate: House of Horrors
History: Clash Of Cultures
International: Childs Play
Culture: Folk You Mate!
Review: Last Holeproof Hero
The Locker Room
Pleased with Beazley
What is Working Class
National Day of Protest
Higher Profile for Labor
Safety Laws Mine New Depths
Unions are opposing the changes to the Occupational and Health and Safety Act that would end the regime of strict liability and limit the targets of safety prosecutions.
"Some of the amendments in their present form constitute significant erosions and watering down of existing worker protections in the OHS Act," the opinion by barrister Brendan Hocking warns.
The legal advice on the changes prepared for Unions NSW argues that the changes would end the reverse onus of proof on employers that has existed for the past 23 years.
This means that when an accident currently occurs, the presumption is that employer is breaching the law.
Under the changes, a prosecution would need to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the employers did not do everything to make the workplace safe "so far as reasonably practicable".
Docking argues this shift will make it hard to secure prosecutions, with factors to be considered including knowledge of the accused and the4 presence of 'slippery'; legal terms such as 'likelihood'.
The second area of concern is a change in definition of people who can be prosecuted, with fears that it will break of chain of responsibility, particularly in the coal industry. Unions believe the wording of this section is in response to the wide scope of prosecutions flowing from the Gretley disaster.
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson says on examination the legislation has serious deficiencies and has called on the government to take it back to the drawing board.
Debnam - I Can be Meaner!
Meanwhile, NSW Opposition leader Peter Debnam has attempted to outdo the government on attacking work safety by banning unions from making safety prosecutions and freezing all such cases currently before court.
The Coalition said it would be unjust to continue prosecuting employers, which assume an absolute duty of care, when in future businesses will only need to do what is "reasonably practicable" to provide a safe workplace.
Under the changes, the following cases would be put on hold:
Five defendants due to face court in October following the death of a 16 year old labourer at Eastern Creek. Joel Exner was on his third day as an apprentice roofer when he fell 12 metres to his death.
A 19 year old fractured his jaw and both arms, suffered punctured lungs, required a tracheotomy and was on life support for four days when he fell 15 metres from the edge of a building at Rhodes. One of the defendants is also being prosecuted in the Exner case.
Prosecutions in relation to the death of Gregory Rees, who was killed during the demolition of 'Boiler No.6' at the former BHP site in Newcastle.
An inexperienced 15 year old worker at North Ryde who was dragged into a conveyor and experienced a partial severing of the right arm at the shoulder.
A prosecution in relation to two furniture removalists who fell from a balcony at Rozelle and were impaled on a metal spiked garden fence. They suffered spinal injuries, lower leg, nerve, tendon and ligament injuries, fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.
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