Qld. Workplace Health & Safety Officer (W.H.S.O.) Concept

I remember moving to QLD about 10 years ago and thinking that the WHSO concept was a great idea. National Legislation has seen the demise of the concept – but nothing says you still can’t have one! George from www.ohschange.com.au discusses his lament. I highly recommend George’s other articles HERE.

Qld. Workplace Health & Safety Officer (W.H.S.O.) Concept

I think it was about 1985 when the Qld. Workplace Health & Safety Act was introduced, prior to that the Qld Construction Safety Act was the major piece of legislation. The legislation that was introduced specified if an organisation had over 30 employees they must have a W.H.S.O.

The W.H.S.O. had to be accredited by the state government and was trained in particular parts of the safety legislation according to what industry they worked in. There was a reaccreditation process at specified intervals where W.H.S.O.’s were trained in legislative updates.

The system was far from perfect but the principle of having to have a safety person and training that person in the safety legislation seems extremely sound.

Harmonisation saw the W.H.S.O. concept disappear. My understanding is that the Qld government argued for the W.H.S.O. concept to be introduced nationally but they were buried by the other states.

In talking to the General Manager of a large building company recently he told me the harmonised safety legislation was great because he saved a lot of money as he did not have to employ a safety officer and there was a heap of safety things he no longer had to do. Interestingly he had little knowledge of his due diligence requirements as the man in charge of the company.

The impression I am gaining is that not having W.H.S.O.’s is a backward step for Qld.

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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