Harmonised Ohs Laws Must Not Blur Safety And Industrial Matters 1

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10th November 2009, 06:06pm - Views: 532

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Media Release

10 November 2009



Statement by Mr Wilhelm Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer

Master Builders Australia, the peak body for the building and construction industry, today called on

the Government to use the opportunity for the proposed model Occupational Health and Safety

(OHS) Act to introduce better, rather than more, OHS regulation that is nationally consistent across


The CEO of Master Builders Australia, Mr Wilhelm Harnisch said “Master Builders supports the

overhaul of OHS laws and the model OHS Act put forward the by the Government, that is, in many

areas, fair and reasonable to employers and on balance provides a suitable framework for OHS

into the future.

“However, changes are required to key areas of the draft model OHS Act, including to some duties,

union right of entry provisions and penalty levels to ensure that the Act meets the test of being fair,

balanced and reasonable.” 

In its submission to Safe Work Australia on the model Act, Master Builders Australia has made a

number of suggested changes. 

Mr Harnisch said,

“The model Act could be improved by making the extent of duty holders’

obligations clearer and by making sure that the obligations relating to building design and

manufacture take into account the very long life spans of buildings.  The duties must be sensible

and capable of being implemented by the building and construction industry.

“Master Builders wants a model Act that delivers both improved workplace safety outcomes and an

effective legislative framework that will encourage employers and workers to be proactive and

collaborative in improving the safety of their workplaces.”

Mr Harnisch expressed concern that the right of entry provisions in the model Act will not achieve

this objective.  He said, “The model OHS Act allows a union representative to enter a workplace at

any time to hold discussions with workers on safety, which has the potential to cause significant

disruption to workplaces if used inappropriately.  

“Master Builders is also very concerned that the model Act would enable a union official to access

a workplace even if they have had their entry permit revoked,

if asked on site by a health and

safety representative.  Master Builders does not reject the need for HSRs to access expert

assistance when required to properly exercise their important role, but this must not be capable of

being abused to circumvent right of entry requirements.

“The Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry found that OHS is often

misused by unions as an industrial tool.  This trivialises safety, and deflects attention away from

real OHS problems.  The model Act poses a significant risk that OHS laws will be used to

circumvent the more stringent requirements imposed on unions seeking entry for industrial

purposes.  The model Act must ensure that the scope for misuse of safety is eliminated,” he said.

For further information contact: Wilhelm Harnisch: Mobile 0402 039 039 or Richard Calver

0422 866 766

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