OHS in the workplace can often be likened to that of a glass floor, where the board, and even the executive, looks down and says, "well that's very interesting but we've got people to do that", according to Barry Sherriff, Partner at Norton Rose Australia.
Speaking ahead of the Safety in Action Conference, 6 April, where Sherriff will present changes to the OHS model laws he says organisations will need to have a clearer understanding of their obligations in OHS.
From 1 January 2012, "we'll have the same law everywhere around Australia," he said.
"Up until now officers can only be guilty second hand. For this reason, officers may not have felt any need to be directly involved in safety. They have seen it as a technical area which is lower down in the organisation," he said.
"This change will require ‘officers' (board and executive management) to be actively involved in safety, to understand what is required for their business and make sure it is actually happening".
"Safety has previously been left to ‘the experts' rather than a hand on approach by management. The new laws will drive a need for accountability, and a positive safety culture up and down the organisation," Mr Sherriff said.
Mr Sherriff will explain how those at the very top will have to use this new ‘positive duty of care' to more fully understand what safety means in their business, and then implement processes to achieve it.
"They need to ‘drive it from the top'. Safety will now be seen as important more broadly through the organisation," he said.
The new OHS laws will mean different things for different businesses, "we need to understand what we are doing, what are the gaps, and realise what we need to do to move forward'... then "get on and do it."
Barry Sherriff will be among 50 speakers at the Safety in Action conference presented by the Safety Institute of Australia Ltd at the Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre, from 5-7 April. For more information visit http://sia.org.au/safetyinaction.
The Safety Institute of Australia Ltd yesterday lodged its comprehensive OHS model law submission, following a consultative process, drawing on over 300 hours of experience and expertise from amongst Australia's best OHS professionals.
This is a significant contribution towards making national health and safety legislation more practical and effective for businesses to achieve safe operations.
For additional information, please contact:
Kate Telfer - Media Liaison
Safety Institute of Australia Ltd (SIA)