04:03am Thursday 02 April 2020

Compliance data needed to help curb workplace injury epidemic

Compliance with OHS laws is not as good as what it could be, research suggests.Dr Kevin Purse and Dr Jill Dorrian from UniSA’s Centre for Sleep Research say that the epidemic nature of work related injury and disease and the available evidence suggests that compliance with OHS laws by Australian employers is not as good as what it could be.  
Some 689,500 people were injured through work in 2006.  Deaths caused by work-related injury and disease are also excessive, with a body count estimated at up to 8,168 a year.  More people die from work-related injury and disease in Australia than from road crashes, breast cancer, heart failure, skin cancer or suicide.
Dr Purse says that the actual level of compliance with OHS legislation in Australia is unclear due to the absence of reliable data.
“What evidence there is though indicates that non-compliance may be widespread,” he says. “Findings from well known workplace hazards such as those associated with unguarded machinery and exposure to noise indicate that breaches of OHS standards may be quite common.  
“Inspection data compiled for the Workplace Relations Ministers Council also supports this assessment.  Of 326,648 workplace inspections conducted by OHS Inspectors in the three year period to 2006 at least 148,506 breaches were identified – a non-compliance rate of 45.5 per 100 inspections.
“While these findings are suggestive, a more statistically robust approach is required to determine Australia wide baseline levels of compliance and non-compliance. 
“Reliable data will ensure the accurate measurement of compliance rates.  It will also enable changes in compliance over time to be tracked, assist employers in meeting their OHS obligations, provide a useful reference point for the targeting of enforcement initiatives and facilitate the measurement of enforcement in raising compliance rates.
“With all Australian governments having now signed up to implementing Model OHS legislation by the end of 2011, there has never been a better time to undertake such an important but long neglected initiative.”
The full article by Dr Purse and Dr Dorrian will be published in August in the Journal of Health, Safety and Environment. Funding for the research was provided through a grant awarded by SafeWork SA.

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