Tougher national health and safety laws are urgently needed to tackle the terrible toll of death, disease and injury for Australian workers, say unions.

Families of victims and unions will today (Monday) launch a hard-hitting new advertising campaign to lift health and safety standards and improve legislative protections for workers.

The campaign is being launched just days before a meeting of all State, Territory and Federal Government Workplace Relations Ministers to discuss new national workplace safety laws.

More than 7000 Australians are estimated to lose their lives from workplace injuries or disease each year. This is four times greater than the annual road toll say unions.

Launching the ‘Don’t Risk Second Rate Safety’ campaign, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“The move by the Council of Australian Governments to develop consistent workplace health and safety laws across all States and Territories is a positive one, but it is vital that protections for workers are lifted, not lowered.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect workers with the world’s best workplace safety laws.

“But the proposed new national occupational health and safety (OHS) laws being considered by Federal, State and Territory Ministers will actually undermine standards, putting Australian workers – and their families – at risk.

“It is unacceptable not to strive for the best possible safety standards in our workplaces with these new laws.

“All of the workers and the families that are affected by a tragic workplace incident want legal protections upgraded, not downgraded.

The proposed new laws must include stronger protections and rights for workers in several areas, including a clear onus on employers to provide a safe workplace, for the burden of proof in any prosecution to lie with the employer, and for unions to be able to initiate a prosecution.

“As the proposals stand, thousands of workers in the States and Territories are at risk of losing important health and safety protections and that’s just not good enough,” said Ms Burrow.

More information
Download Don’t Risk Second Rate Safety factsheet here