Queensland says federal OHS could threaten worker safety

Monday, 12 March, 2007

The Queensland government has weighed into the OHS debate, warning that new federal government changes to workers compensation will threaten worker safety.

Queensland's Employment and Industrial Relations Minister, John Mickel, said the changes allow more companies to self-insure their workers compensation and avoid state workplace health and safety laws.

"The Commonwealth government is allowing some big employers to self-insure under its Comcare scheme, while extending to those employers coverage under the Commonwealth's occupational health and safety legislation," Mickel said.

"Under amendments to Commonwealth laws, which come into effect on 15 March, national self-insurers and their workers are specifically excluded from state and territory workplace health and safety laws."

Mickel said the result will be more complex, fragmented and confusing safety laws. "For example, if a national self-insurer engaged a contractor covered by state laws, the workplace would be subject to two separate regulation systems "” including enforcement and levels of penalties for breaches of the legislation.

"In such a case, the contractor would be stuck with more red tape, as they would have an obligation to conduct certain aspects of the work safely under the Commonwealth laws but also have an obligation under Queensland's laws to provide a safe workplace."

Mickel said this has the potential to create a "safety gap", as Workplace Health and Safety Queensland employs around 240 trained inspectors. In comparison, Comcare employs around 40 inspectors nationally.

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