Australian health and safety inspectors' perceptions and actions in relation to changed work arrangements
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Extensive international research points to an association between changed work arrangements, especially those commonly labelled as contingent work, with adverse occupational health and safety (OHS) outcomes. Research also indicates these work arrangements have weakened or bypassed existing OHS and workers’ compensation regulatory regimes. However, there has been little if any research into how OHS inspectors perceive these issues and how they address them during workplace visits or investigations. Between 2003 and 2007 research was undertaken that entailed detailed documentary and statistical analysis, extended interviews with 170 regulatory managers and inspectors, and observational data collected while accompanying inspectors on 118 ‘typical’ workplace visits. Key findings are that inspectors responsible for a range of industries see altered work arrangements as a serious challenge, especially labour hire (agency work) and subcontracting. Though the law imposes clear obligations, inspectors identified misunderstanding/blameshifting and poor compliance amongst parties to these arrangements. The complexity of these work arrangements also posed logistical challenges to inspectorates.
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Quinlan, Michael, Richard Johnstone and Maria McNamara, 2009. ‘Australian health and safety inspectors’ perceptions and actions in relation to changed work arrangements.’ Journal of Industrial Relations, 51(4): 557-573.