Workplace safety debate about to resume

  • 25/08/2015
Michael Woodhouse (Simon Wong/3 News)
Michael Woodhouse (Simon Wong/3 News)

By Peter Wilson

Parliament is about to resume the debate on workplace health and safety, and there's sure to be another row about the Government's proposed new laws.

There's been intense criticism of the way industries have been defined as high or low-risk.

Dairy, sheep and beef farming are low-risk while others such as worm farming, cat breeding, and growing lavender are high-risk.

High-risk industries must have an elected health and safety representative on site, while for the others its voluntary.

Labour leader Andrew Little said at the weekend the Health and Safety Reform Bill was a shambles and all the parties in parliament should get together to fix it.

The Bill is in its committee stage, the only stage at which it can be changed.

The minister in charge of it, Michael Woodhouse, doesn't agree with Mr Little,

"I've heard his comments and I respectfully hold a different view about what the Bill will do," he said yesterday.

The status of different industries hasn't been finally settled and there's still to be a consultation process before regulations are drafted.

Mr Woodhouse is indicating the process will be flexible.

"Clearly there have been some anomalies highlighted," he said.

"I'm quite open and relaxed about an exemptions regime, as long as every industry and every workplace understands what they must do.

"I'm quite sure common sense will prevail."

Mr Woodhouse says the Bill is a huge improvement on current law and imposes obligations on every employer in every workplace - regardless of whether their business is designated high or low-risk.