Benchmarking OHS regulation

Tuesday, 09 February, 2010

A draft report released by the federal government’s Productivity Commission has identified differences in burdens imposed on business by OHS regulatory regimes across the states, territories and the Commonwealth.

The report - Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Occupational Health and Safety - was requested by COAG, as part of the commitment by all governments to remove unnecessary compliance costs, enhance regulatory consistency and reduce regulatory duplication and overlap. A companion report, benchmarking Australian and New Zealand food safety regulation, was released in December 2009.

The report highlights a number of areas where jurisdictions impose different levels of burden on business and thus where it is likely that reforms could both reduce compliance costs and improve OHS outcomes. This information may contribute to the work towards national uniformity of legislation and a nationally consistent approach to compliance and enforcement, under the Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in OHS.

Commissioner David Kalisch said: “There are encouraging signs that regulatory agencies generally use a tailored and measured approach assisting businesses to comply and that they only use punitive measures when a cooperative approach does not work. Yet, differences in regulation and its enforcement remain in a number of areas and the burden falls most heavily on businesses operating in more than one jurisdiction.”

Areas where there were significant differences in 2008-09 include:

  • Record keeping for risk management, training, incidents and a range of particular hazards;
  • Worker consultation, participation and representation, including union involvement in OHS consultations and investigations of possible OHS breaches;
  • A range of workplace hazards including asbestos, 'psycho-social hazards', falls, manual handling and licences for high-risk work; and
  • Availability and application of enforcement tools.

The commission seeks comment on the draft report before finalising its report in March 2010.

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