Matthew Tupper

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Has Health and Safety legislation gone overboard?

My feeling is that workplace wellbeing is non-negotiable. But has it gone too far, are we ruining productivity? Are we hindering growth with our desire for there to be no more accidents? Or should a 100% Health and Safety record be the paramount objective for all workplaces?

The Australian Work Health and Safety act aims to "protect workers and other persons against harm to their health, safety and welfare through the elimination of risks arising from work". Are they aiming too high? What is the correct amount of Health and Safety legislation/intervention?

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    Apr 26 2012: I work in a school. It only has one floor, the groundfloor. For years the Health and Safety Inspectors have been trying to get us to put bars in front of the windows so that the kids don't fall out the window. It's a 2 foot drop to the floor. The worst that could happen is a bruise. They ignore me when I point out that there is only one exit and if it is blocked by fire, the only way out would be through the window. Quite frankly, yes, they do go overboard.
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    Apr 16 2012: the entire idea that an adult person needs government intervention to negotiate work conditions with another adult person is at least ... questionable.

    as always, we celebrate what is seen, and don't care about the unseen. we see how jobs getting safer. we don't see how many jobs never get created. we see how the worker benefits. we don't see how less he is paid, and we don't hear the laments of the unemployed.
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    Apr 27 2012: YES. Its a bit like the constant politically driven need to reduce the road toll. We have to realise that some accidents on the road or at work are completely unavoidable, as they are completely unpredictable. We now have whole industries devoted to preventing injuries that were highly unlikely to occur anyway, and all to avoid compensation payouts. This is one area where I think New Zealand leads the world. Their laws place a much higher emphasis on personal responsibility. That's why they get to do all those crazy sports like zorbing and canyon swings and heliskiing. In the US and Aus your public liability insurance would send you broke.
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    Apr 16 2012: I see something similar in the USA. I wonder if the question should be "How much regulation are you willing to tolerate (accept?) in exchange for not having to take personal responsibility for your actions?"

    Or: "Is it possible to remove the intentionally obtuse by regulation?"
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      Apr 24 2012: I definitely think that this is a far better conversation. There is a lot of room, in my opinion, for a renegotiation of the relationship between individual's responsibilities and the state's.
  • MR T

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    Apr 16 2012: If people want to make claims, then the people paying up want to reduce the frequency of claims arising.

    Can't blame them, I've seen people get thousands for petty things of their own fault, like mild whiplash from a crash they caused. Give them an inch and they go a mile.
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    Apr 16 2012: It's not the legislation per se, it's the fact that it is so often interpreted and applied by people who are unable to exercise commonsense!
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    Apr 16 2012: Rather than bringing in more regulations the first step is to actually enforce current regulations, i.e. consequences which actually encourage the big producers to abide by the rules.

    Example: BP disregarded safety for the sake of production, and I'm talking about well before the Gulf incident. Their record was such garbage that some contractors even pulled workers from BP's refinery sites for the sake of liability concerns. OSHA continuously found fault with BP's safety, and BP continuously paid the fines without changing the work environment. Why? Because BP figured that safety-free production would cover the fines and then some.

    While it makes sense intuitively, I have found the idea of "more safety decreases production" to be unfounded. There are cases where it is true, e.g. scaffold work is certainly slowed down with 100% tie-off. However, I have also seen examples where a single group outperforms the competition in both safety and production, as measured in random audits. It's been my experience that workers in a safety-oriented environment typically have a more positive attitude and seem to concentrate more on the job, while a sloppy standard of safety typically produces a sloppy standard of production, with the sloppiness correlation likely due to sloppy management.

    Lastly, a claim of 'eliminating' risk is pipe dream, but the risk can be reduced.