A review to put the national Comcare occupational health and safety scheme on a more sustainable footing has been launched by the Federal Government.
A focus of the review will be to ensure all employees covered under the scheme are protected by rigourous OH&S safeguards and appropriate workers’ compensation benefits.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry director of workplace policy Peter Anderson says the review is timely and should help produce a more efficient national OH&S scheme.
“The Comcare system has never been properly tested against private sector objectives – we don’t know if all private sector employers would be able to operate within the scheme, so for its long term viability there needs to be a review,” Anderson says.
But he cautions against seeing the review as something that could result in a national OH&S system.
“For national companies there are some efficiencies on the table from a single national scheme, but the majority of Australian businesses operate in one state only, and for SMEs in particular there is no big advantage in having a national scheme,” Anderson says.
Business has long suffered from red-tape problems generated by dealing with separate OH&S regimes in each state in addition to the federal system.
John Ninness, an OH&S consultant who has worked in various states on the east coast, says there would be real cost savings to business and employees if the review could move governments closer to agreeing to a nationally consistent framework.
“There are some differences between the systems that make work for employers and can also make life more difficult for employees who work across jurisdictions, so any move to simplify things would save a lot of time and money for all concerned,” Ninness says.