Outsourcing Risk? The Regulation of Occupational Health and Safety Where Subcontractors are Employed
Posted: 16 Jan 2003
The growing practice of outsourcing within many industrialized countries has placed increasing pressure on occupational health and safety (OHS) regulatory regimes and the agencies that administer them. After briefly identifying how outsourcing/subcontracting can undermine OHS, the paper analyzes attempts to regulate these problems in Australia and the United States. It is argued that the legal framework in Australia makes it somewhat easier for regulators to address the subcontracting issue than is the case with OSHA in the United States. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of current regulatory responses is problematic in both countries, in part because regulators lack resources and a full understanding of the risks and in part because attempts at remedies cut across neo-liberal ideas that currently drive government policies more generally. If the same pattern applies to other changes in work arrangements (such as temporary employment, labor leasing, home-based work and the like), then they represent a very serious threat to the maintenance of OHS standards, and require a major reconsideration of regulatory regimes.
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