Main objectives of the occupational health and safety act

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Developed democracies across the world recognise the need to allow participation of the people and relevant institutions in executing government functions. One such function is legislation. Governments obtain sovereign power from the masses. Consequently, they should consider the welfare of individuals and organisations (like corporations) when enacting laws.

An example of legislation that takes into account the interests of individuals and corporations is the occupational health and safety (OHS) act which is more or less similar across various jurisdictions.

The main objectives of the occupational health and safety act form the subject of this essay and will be discussed in detail. Into the bargain, this essay will consider motivations for the government (particularly in Australia) in developing health and safety legislation.

The relevant legislation in this respect is The Work Health and Safety Act (hereinafter referred to as the act). It is accompanied by subsidiary Regulations and Codes of Practice. It took effect on 1 January 2012 repealing The OHS Act 1991 and other previous legislation to this regard.[1]

The main objective of the act is to provide for a framework to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces.[2]

This entails protection of employees at workplaces from health risks and promotion of safe and healthy work environments. This follows the rising incidents of work-related injuries and fatalities. In 2005-6 there were 457,603 work-related incidents including diseases, injuries and fatalities.[3]

The act was introduced in a bid to harmonise legislation governing occupational health and safety.

Further, the act aims to encourage unions and employer organisations in promoting improvements in OHS practices. This reflects the government's aim to balance the conflicting needs of providing employees with favourable working conditions and that of giving corporations an enabling environment to work in. When employees suffer work-related injury and diseases, they claim massive compensation and this is detrimental to corporations and by extension, to the economy.

These operational costs may manifest in other ways besides compensation claims. For instance, it is estimated that work-related injury costs the Australian economy $3 billion a year.

Moreover, effecting criminal penalties for non-compliance with OHS legislation also falls within the scope of the act. The act deems failure to ensure the health and safety of workers a category 1 offence and prescribes a $3 million fine to corporations and $600,000 fine and/or 5 years imprisonment to officers. This guards against laxity in adhering to OHS practices by corporations and their officers.

[1] http://www.comcare.gov.au/laws__and__regulations/Work_Health_and_Safety_Act,_Regulations_and_Codes_of_Practice [go back]

[2] http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2011A00137/Html/Text#_Toc309986377 [go back]

‚Äč[3] www.actu.org.au/Images/Dynamic/attachments/6514/factsheet_death_at_work_0409.pdf [go back]

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