Harmonisation of OHS Regulation in Australia: An Evaluation of Three Initiatives

Brown, Kerry A., Furneaux, Craig W., & Allan, Don (2008) Harmonisation of OHS Regulation in Australia: An Evaluation of Three Initiatives. In Brown, Kerry, Hampson, Keith, Brandon, Peter, & Pillay, Janet (Eds.) Clients Driving Construction Innovation: Benefiting from Innovation. Icon.Net Pty Ltd, Brisbane, pp. 120-127.


Recently released research reports into the construction industry in Australia argued that improved consistency in the regulatory environment could lead to improvements in innovation (Manley 2004; Price Waterhouse Coopers 2002), improved productivity (Productivity Commission 2004) and that, research into this area should be given high priority (Hampson and Brandon 2004). Productivity gains from an improved regulatory system have been estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars (ABCB 2003). The Cole Royal Commission (2003) highlighted occupational health and safety (OHS) in the construction industry as an area needing concerted effort to improve the conditions of workers, and the need to develop a national regulatory framework. Despite numerous industry submissions advocating a national OHS system, Cole (2003) concluded there was little prospect of the development of a national framework, apart from through the development and adoption of national OHS standards. We argue that there are several harmonisation mechanisms that have been overlooked as a possible framework for understanding and operationalising a systematic approach to OHS. Harmonisation is concerned with coordination of regulation between jurisdictions that does not necessarily require 'sameness' across a national arena (Majone 1999). Consistency, especially on a national scale, has been the favoured approach (Cole 2003); however, there have been variable degrees of success in achieving a nationally consistent model and indeed significant barriers to pursuing this option. Three initiatives to improve the harmonisation of OHS regulations across Australia are reviewed in this paper. The first is the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 (Commonwealth) which enabled certain organisations to opt out of state-based regulatory regimes. The second is the standards, codes of practice and guidance documents developed by the National Occupational Health and Safety Council (NOHSC). The third is the attachment of conditions to special purpose payments from the Australian Government to the states, in the form of OHS accreditation with the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner. This paper examines and evaluates each of these attempts to promote consistency across Australia. It concludes that while there is a high level of information sharing between jurisdictions, particularly from the NOSCH standards, a fragmented OHS policy framework remains in place across Australia. The utility of emergent industry initiatives such as the Best Practice Guideline to enhance consistency are briefly discussed. Firstly, however, a broader discussion about achieving consistency in federal systems of government is undertaken to frame and evaluate the outlined initiatives.

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ID Code: 15195
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: For more information about this book please refer to the publisher's website (see link) or contact the author.
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Keywords: OHS, Construction Industry, Regulations, Australia
ISBN: 9781741071566
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION (160500) > Policy and Administration not elsewhere classified (160599)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Business and Management not elsewhere classified (150399)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Business Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2008 Icon.Net Pty Ltd
Deposited On: 15 Oct 2008 00:00
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2017 14:40

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