Peer Reviewed Publication:
Walters, David. “Workplace Arrangements for Worker Participation in OHS”. In OHS Regulation for a Changing World of Work ( Bluff, Gunningham and Johnstone Eds), (Sydney: Federation Press, 2004), 68-93.
The international influence of the Robens Report on occupational health and safety management (OHSM) is widely recognised. Its approach to self-regulation and advocacy of greater consultation between workers and employers, helped formulate regulatory strategies for health and safety at work that have been extensively adopted internationally in modern OHS legislation and encouraged by national regulatory agencies.In this paper an attempt is made to describe what this means in terms of structures, processes and orientations of joint arrangements for OHSM in workplaces and to analyse strengths and weaknesses in their application. In Australia various approaches to reforming workplace arrangements have been informed by ideas derived at least in part from Robens. My intention is not to provide a detailed critique of Australian practice but to locate it within wider international experience in order to better understand the nature of participatory OHSM, the role of ‘self-regulation’ its links to OHS outcomes and the various supports and constraints underpinning its success or failure. Systematic approaches to participative workplace arrangements for OHS in Australia are therefore contextualised by comparison with those in other countries and especially with EU member states where revisions have emphasised the regulation of participative OHSM, following the impact of the EU Framework Directive 89/391.At the core of the paper is the question of the continued relevance of these approaches in a world of work that is fundamentally changed since they were originally formulated several decades ago. It looks at ways in which regulatory bodies, employers, trade unions and OHS practitioners have addressed the challenges to OHSM posed by changes in the structure and organisation of work and the labour market and it seeks to understand what it is about participatory strategies for OHSM that make them useful in the present regulatory and economic environment.
Walters, David, 2003, WP 10 - Workplace arrangements for OHS in the 21st Century, National Research Centre for OHS Regulation, Canberra