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States called on to put politics aside for federal OHS

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Workplace safety professionals are calling for governments to "stop playing games" and hasten moves towards consistent occupational health and safety (OHS) laws despite fears about federal industrial reform.
An overwhelming 88 per cent of safety professionals surveyed nationally for the Victorian division of the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) supported a single federal OHS legislative system.

SIA Victoria President Phil Lovelock said the various state and territory regimes stymied efforts by employers and safety suppliers alike to improve workplace safety.

"What saves lives in one state will also save lives in another," he said. "There's simply no need for the extra red tape that so many sets of codes of practice and regulations bring."

State Premiers and territory Chief Ministers met last week and agreed to work towards harmonisation of state OHS laws but Mr Lovelock remained unimpressed, referring to the earlier collapse of talks.

"There's been talk of harmonisation for more than a decade beginning with efforts by the former National Occupational Health and Safety Council," he said.

"The NOHSC's replacement, the ASCC, has now taken up the challenge but while you have stunts like walkouts by the states, we're not hopeful that they're truly committed to change."  

The SIA Safety Report Card research, to be presented at its Safety In Action Conference in March next year, also showed the profession was concerned about the likely impact of federal industrial relations reform on OHS. Almost half expected the reforms would have a negative impact, while just one in four anticipated an improvement in OHS.

Mr Lovelock said the research findings underscored the need for a well-resourced national body responsible for the co-ordination of workplace safety progress around the country.
"We had that in the form of the NOHSC before it was effectively neutered by federal government budget cuts 10 years ago. The ASCC has an awful lot of ground to make up," he said.

The SIA Safety Report Card report will be released at the Safety In Action Conference, which runs from March 20 to 22 next year at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

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