“Everyone’s Business” Project is aimed at employers and unions finding ways to promote an approach to improve occupational health and safety in the workplace. Martin Ferguson, ACTU President.

I am delighted to take part in this, the launch of ‘everyone’s business’.

‘Everyone’s business’ is a project jointly developed by the ACTU and the ACCI with input and support from the States and Worksafe.

While the project was first proposed at Worksafe by the ACCI, the ACTU has fully backed it because the course’s basic message of cooperation is consistent with the approach taken in our own long running training courses for occupational health and safety representatives.

A course such as this one, whether delivered to management only, employee reps only, or a mixed group of both, will improve the relationships between the groups at the workplace and lead to more cooperative and consultative workplaces.

This is a bonus for us in many ways: for example one of the main reasons unions face a high turnover of elected representatives is that after training they return to work enthusiastic …. But they soon get discouraged.

Why? Because at times there seems to be no common commitment; it seems no-one else understands their pleas for positive change and no-one understands the real possibilities for change in the workplace.

“Everyone’s Business” Has Not. However. Been An Easy Or Quick Project.

We had the usual discussions, compromises on content and wording, but it is now finally complete and available for use by both employers and unions to promote an approach to occupational health and safety in workplaces which has the potential to lead to very real improvements.

It is absolutely essential that management, unions and government commit themselves to do this, as the costs to workers, to business, and to the Australian economy, of our still appalling record in occupational health and safety are enormous.

The official statistics – 500 deaths and 200, 000 injuries annually – are bad. But the picture becomes worse when you realise that these stats are only deaths caused by accidents, and injuries that cause workers to be away from the workplace for more than 5 days.

The real level of work-caused death in Australia has been estimated to be up to 2,000 deaths each year.

And while the level of compensable injuries can be changed simply by changing legislation, the real level of injury and illness has been estimated to exceed 500,000 a year.

That is, one workers in injured in Australian workplaces every minute of every day of the year[1] , and 5 workers die each day.[2]

The tragedy is that most of these injuries and deaths can be easily prevented.

However, it really is only by management, employees and their representatives working together that we can reduce the suffering, the terrible statistics, and the resulting costs to companies and the community.

Government too has a role in the reduction of work related death, injury and disease: there are laws which protect workers, but there are still some areas in which more needs to be done.

The regulatory authorities, through their inspectorates, have the responsibility to ensure compliance with these laws both through providing advice and, where necessary, through prosecutions.

One further point: during the development of the ‘everyone’s business’ compatible training course, there was clear agreement between the ACTU and the ACCI that health and safety representatives would have already completed the approved introductory course for reps.

In the case of union elected representatives these courses are delivered by either training units at the trades and labour councils or unions themselves.

It is a very important proviso for us; this course is not a replacement for the introductory training which trains representatives in ohs law, how to represent fellow employees, negotiation skills and assertiveness.

The ‘everyone’s business’ course concentrates on the workplace structures, developing and implementing an effective health and safety management system and getting things done.

In conclusion, this course will provide for much needed understanding of the issues and ways considered appropriate and effective by both the ACCI and the ACTU to address occupational health and safety in the workplace.

It is only a start, but an historic one, an one that can lead to real results: a change in the way we see and do things.

Martin Ferguson, President, ACTU. Victorian Occupational Health And Safety Authority World Trade Centre, Building “D”, Level 7, Cnr Flinders And Spencer St, Melbourne. Thursday August 26, 1993

[1] Calculated as 365 days x 24 hours x 60 mins = 525,600

[2] Calculated as 365 x 5 = 1825