Revisiting the COAG Case for OHS Harmonisation
Windholz, E. L., (2013), Revisiting the COAG Case for OHS Harmonisation, J Health & Safety, Research & Practice, 5(1), 9-16
8 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2013 Last revised: 25 Nov 2013
Date Written: March 1, 2013
Occupational health and safety (OHS) harmonisation in Australia is on a precipice. While noting that several forces have operated to bring about this situation (including traditional federal/state tensions compounded by the election in a number of States of Conservative governments), this article focuses on the strength of the case for harmonisation. The Council of Australian Governments’ case for harmonisation appears compelling: improved efficiency for business and governments; improved effectiveness in reducing workplace death, injury and disease; and equality of safety standards and regulatory treatment for workers and employers. The Regulatory Impact Statements prepared for the harmonised regime estimate it will deliver a significant net societal benefit. This article’s examination reveals, however, that the intuitive appeal of the ‘efficiency, effectiveness, equality’ narrative belies harmonisation’s complex and contested nature. Harmonisation involves balancing three sets of values: (1) economic efficiency; (2) broader societal values of equity, justice and fairness; and (3) the democratic values underpinning our federal system of government. This balancing exercise involves difficult trade-offs and raises as many questions as it answers.
Keywords: OHS, Harmonisation, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Equality, Regulatory Impact Statements
JEL Classification: I18, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation