Today I supported the Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021.
This bill will improve the health and safety of Victorian workplaces by ensuring contracted employees (labour-hire workers) receive the same health and safety protections as employees.
This is what I had to say:
I rise to speak on the Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021.
This bill will introduce important changes that will improve the safety of our workplaces throughout Victoria.
In particular, it addresses the often-neglected safety of vulnerable contracted workers.
The 2016 Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work identified gaps in rights and protections for labour hire workers and a lack of clarity about how OHS obligations are shared between labour hire agencies and host employers. This bill seeks to address these issues.
Currently, labour hire workers are directly employed by labour hire providers, who then supply the worker’s labour to the host employer.
This has meant that labour hire workers have missed out on some protections that are afforded to employees.
The bill does this by changing the definition of ‘employee’ to include labour hire workers and making the duty for labour hire providers and host employers to work together to share workplace health and safety duties.
While this is an important step towards addressing the rights of labour hire workers, the key to the success of this new regulation will be enforcement. I hope that greater attention will be paid to ensuring that labour hire workers are not exploited and have access to a safe working environment.
Similarly, an important aspect of this bill is that it enables health and safety delegates to take photos, measurements, sketches and recordings when they are visiting a workplace. This is incredibly important.
Previously, these delegates did not have this power. As a result, businesses were not being held accountable for their breaches of the OH&S Act and we have seen that some workers have been reprimanded for taking evidence of potential breaches.
Taking photos and videos is a tool that has been used in a variety of workplaces to improve safety including hospitals, factories and meat processing plants.
It is so critical that evidence of a breach can be captured at the moment of the breach. I am also pleased that the bill includes adequate safeguards and limitations on the use of this power, so it is not used unfairly or undermines privacy rights.
I believe this bill will be effective in improving the health and safety of workplaces in Victoria and that is why I will be supporting this bill today.