WriteRelease share the findings of Professor Michael Quinlan, University of New South Wales, on the importance of union influence for workplace safety. Quinlan, who recently spoke at the Safety Institute of Australia podcast, was one of the authors of a five year research programme into Australia's occupational health and safety inspectorates.
Quinlan spoke ahead of his April 2 address to the Safety in Action Conference in Melbourne about the findings of his study with Richard Johnstone. According to Quinlan, unions have not pursued safety as much as they should have. Unions have played a significant part in campaigns, which brought about health and safety legislation, workers’ compensation legislation and reforms of health and safety legislation.
In response to remarks that unions might be abusing OHS-related powers to deal with an industrial relations agenda, Quinlan said that there has been an ongoing argument for a long time that health and safety should be quarantined from industrial relations. The idea that one can run health and safety as an entirely separate agenda to industrial relations is intellectually and factually flawed.
Quinlan notes that in practice, it is not possible to find a health and safety representative in a workplace where there is no union. Several incidents demonstrate that a workplace without effective workers and union inputs have problems with health and safety.
Provided that unions and inspectorates were adequately resourced, Quinlan said criticisms that Australian OHS legislation modelled on Robens principles were too soft and were unjustified.
The need for essential infrastructure such as having a union movement strong enough to be able to have effective representation and interest in health and safety on the ground would call for a legislative regime and maintain a sufficiently resourced and well-trained inspectorate.
Quinlan said that while better trained than ever before, inspectorates still do not have enough resources to do the job.
Quinlan will present his keynote address to the Safety in Action Conference, which will mark the 60th anniversary of host, the Safety Institute of Australia..