Business risks in OH&S reform

A push to create a nationally consistent occupational health and safety system presents both opportunities and threats for businesses, business groups say.


The harmonisation of state-based OH&S regimes is one of several red tape-cutting measures to be pursued by state and federal political leaders at tomorrow’s Council of Australian Governments meeting in Adelaide.


OHS reform has long been a key objective of business groups because of the millions in compliance costs caused by having to comply with complicated and different regimes operating in each state.


Senior figures in state and federal governments have reportedly now agreed to begin discussions on a draft OH&S legal framework that will provide the basis for nationally consistent laws.


But while welcoming moves towards national consistency, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson says the process could present some risks to business.


A key question, according to Anderson, is what model national laws will take – and whether they avoid the heavy-handedness of the much criticised NSW system, which includes strict liability and stiff penalties.


“For business, and small business in particular, the most important thing is the reasonableness of OH&S regulations rather than whether it works on state or national basis,” Anderson says.


“Any national OH&S harmonisation should not follow the NSW model; that is an untenable model for Australia and one which COAG should clearly rule out.”


Also on the agenda at COAG is a national system for the regulation of mortgage brokers and financial services regulation in areas such as margin lending and non-bank lending, and work on cutting 10 red tape hot-spots in areas such as national trade qualification recognition.



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