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  Issue No 48 Official Organ of LaborNet 31 March 2000  




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Neale Towart's Labour Review

Our latest update of the wild and wonderful from the courts, the journals and the wierd world of industrial relations.


Safe Design Project

The Safe Design Project was started by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission in 1998. It is an initiative that aims to encourage target groups to return to the drawing board to focus more on designing out or reducing hazards before they get to the workplace.

The Safe Design Project is supervised by a Reference Group made up or representatives from State and Territory OHS authorities, the ACCI and the ACTU.

Phase One of the project is a review of the OHS legal obligations of the target groups, a literature review of national and international initiatives in safe design, and a survey of awareness levels and current OHS practises of target groups.

Phase Two will involve development and implementation of specific strategies and products that increase awareness and understanding about design issues among key groups.

Phase Three will involve promotion and evaluation of products and strategies.

An overview of the project can be found at

(Worksafe News; vol. 15, no. 1, Autumn 2000)

Young Workers Safety To Go: OHS in fast food

59% of 15-19 year old Australians work either full time or part-time, with many combining work with study. State and National OHS authorities are developing strategies to reduce injuries in the fast food industry, a major sector of employment for young people. A study in the fast food industry found:

· consistent injury patterns: minor burns and lacerations were common. Time-loss injuries were uncommon. Occupational violence in the form of verbal abuse was common, threats and assaults were rare.

· most time-loss injuries occurred in the mornings or lunchtimes, and were task-related not fatigue related.

· a comprehensive management system where OHS was integrated into all work tasks and processes of production resulted in high levels of OHS legislative knowledge, enhanced ability to recognise the nexus between hazard and risk exposures and injuries, excellent understanding of prevention strategies

· similar hazards were cited by employees in all stores

· on-the-job training was comprehensive for all tasks, but young workers rarely recognised it as 'training'.

· most of the young casuals interviewed remained for two to three years with the same employer

Cutting accident with Stanley knives were a common injury and international studies show the same problem. This has lead to calls for their redesign.

(Worksafe News; vol. 15, no. 1, Autumn 2000)

Hardly Harmless

Michael Quinlan

Hold Harmless contracts are a "corporate lawyer solution" that attempt to shift risk and liability to another party rather than addressing the central problem of managing safety when outsourcing.. This means that the more powerful party to a contract, such as a large buyer of outsourced labour, is able to transfer costs and risks to the weaker party, such as a small labour-hire firm. The Recruiting and Consulting Services Association, two large labour-hire firms and the Labor Council of NSW called for a government inquiry into the labour-hire industry because of these contracts.

Employers in the USA, where such contracts are widespread, have been found to be liable for OHS incidents when they have outsourced all their labour to labour-hire firms. The courts have been willing to find the owner and operator of the workplace liable, not the firm supplying the labour.

The ACTU has also been pressing for an inquiry into labour-hire, and with large labour-hire firms themselves also calling for a look at the industry, prospects for such an inquiry seem to have increased.

(OHS Alert; vol. 1, issue 2, February 2000

George Weston Foods case

A fatal accident at George Weston Foods highlights similar problems. The employee fell into an uncovered and unlit pit left by sub-contractors. The sub-contractor was fined for breaches of the OHS Act. The Industrial Relations Commission of NSW found that although George Weston Foods had a system to regulate contractors and sub-contractors in place, they relied too much on safe procedures being adopted by the contractors and sub-contractors. George Weston Foods was fined $120,000.

(Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin; vol. 9, no. 189, March 22, 2000)

Confined Spaces: Killing the Canary

David West

Confined spaces are potentially lethal hazards that require thorough risk assessment. There are differences in legal definitions of confined spaces so a risk assessment approach is the best method of reducing the hazards.

(OHS Alert; vol. 1, issue 2, February 2000)

E-mail and Sexual Harassment

Employers may face damages payouts for vicarious liability for sexual harassment unless e-mail systems are properly managed. Michael Tehan from Minter Ellison says that a recent case in the USA highlights the possible problems. The Chevron Corporation paid $2.2million to settle a lawsuit brought against it by employees to whom an 'insider' had sent an e-mail containing material entitled 'Why beer is better than women'.

Courts will not look favourably on employers who have not established, circulated and enforced policies setting out expected standards, Tehan said.

(Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin; vol. 9, no. 189, March 22, 2000)

Federal Court takes over HREOC

From 13th April, the Federal Court will have responsibility for hearing complaints of unlawful sex, race and disability bias following the Government's transfer of hearing powers from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).

(Discrimination Alert; Issue 105, February 29, 2000)

Carer's and Discrimination

The NSW Government says it will introduce family leave provisions into the Anti-Discrimination Act to protect carers who take time off work to look after a sick parent, child or partner. The legislation does not define "family" but it will cover same-sex couples. The provision applies to businesses with more than five employees.

(Discrimination Alert; Issue 105, February 29, 2000)

Probation and Contract of Employment

An employer's written probation guidelines were found to form part of the contract of employment. They established an objective system for performance assessment, and the system had to be followed for termination of employment to be valid. The Northern Territory Supreme Court found that the employee was wrongfully dismissed because the guidelines were not followed.

Hansen v Northern Land Council (1999) 46 AILR 4-162

(Recruitment and Termination; newsletter 23, 18 February 2000)

Dress Code and Termination

A long-term employee had her employment terminated after she continued to wear earrings following a change in the employer's dress code. The dismissal was found to be unfair. The employee had objected to the new dress code on the basis that she had been employed for eleven years and had been wearing the same three earrings for six or seven years. The dress code stated that employees could only have two studs or sleepers in any one ear.

Woolworths v Dawson (1999) 45 AILR 4-012

(Recruitment and Termination; newsletter 23, 18 February 2000)


*    Talk to neale

*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 48 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: The New President
At the end of her first week in the job, new ACTU President Sharan Burrow trades emails with Workers Online.
*  Health: Making Sense of Medicare
Nurses lift the lid on the Medicare myths as they shape up for a major national campaign.
*  Unions: Bush Bashing
The Finance Sector Union is taking to the road to pressure the government to impose community service obligations on banks.
*  Politics: The French Connection
While Victorian building unions are seeking a 36 hour week, Eurpoean nations like France are taking a more communcal approach to working time.
*  Economics: Mutual Obligation
New statistics show that an increasing number of people are volunteering to contribute to the community.
*  History: Living Library - Part II
More on the rich labour history that is housed within the walls of Sydney's Mitchell Library.
*  International: Russian Revolution
Russian trade unions are calling for the revision of a draft Labour Code, against the backdrop of Presidential elections.
*  Review: Casino Royale
Laurie Aaron's new book is sparking a lively debate about how a progressive agenda can be adapted to the challenges of globalisation.
*  Satire: Chop ‘em Up and Stick ‘em in Acid”
The West Australian Government is poised to pass Pakistani-style sentencing laws.

»  Workers Demand Internet Access to Organise
»  ILO Condemns Australian Labor Laws
»  Flying Doctor Grounds Aussie Jobs
»  Bank-Bulance Hits the Road
»  April Deadline on Olympics Pay Claim
»  Pressure Builds on Stellar Contract
»  Shares Plummets But Rio Bosses Get Millions
»  Nurses to Launch Medicare Campaign
»  Action Boosts Wages for Disabled Workers
»  SA Workers Close Building Industry
»  Political Economy for Activists
»  Workers to Set the Tunes for Dili Streets
»  OBITUARY - George Petersen (1921-2000)

»  The Soapbox
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  An Open Letter to Ansett
»  Moved by Wal's Life Story
»  The Problem With Mandatory Sentencing

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