Occupational Health and Safety Audit Assessment

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Assessment on Occupational Health and Safety Audit of the Assignment

Over the last thirty years, the state of labor relations in Australia has been constantly changing. Where, the effects of globalization would have a dramatic impact upon the country, as it is causing a number of businesses, to focus on increasing their profits as much as possible. Part of the reason for this, is because globalization would force trade barriers and tariffs to be reduced. This would allow many cheaper products and services manufactured in other countries, to flood the Australian market. To adapt to these different changes, many business leaders would urge the government to change the basic nature of the labor relationship in the workplace. At which point, large amounts of deregulation would occur during the 1980's and 1990's. One aspect of this arrangement was, changing the underlying nature of the how businesses would negotiate with employees, about various occupational and safety issues in the workplace. What happened was, many business groups began to openly question the labor arrangements that were in place under the current legal structure. Where, they felt that the contractual understanding between: various groups of employees and unions were hindering their ability to compete. This would lead to drastic changes in the workplace and the way various employment agreements were handled, as there was in shift in labor laws. A good example of this can be seen by looking no further than Work Choices. This is a series of amendments that were backed by the Howard government, as they would change the underlying nature of safety regulations and various employment contracts. Where, power would be taken away from the states and a new watered down federal regulations, would apply to businesses. At the same, various labor arrangements were changed, as each employer was allowed to be able to negotiate contracts individually vs. with a group. This is significant, because it would highlight a fundamental shift that was occurring in occupational and safety regulations. In 2009, there were changes by Labor, to increase the overall amount of regulation and restore more balance to various safety rules. As the Fair Works Act of 2009, would seek to restore this sense of stability. (Michalando, 2009, pp. 118 -- 124) To fully understand the effects of various regulations in the workplace requires, conducting an occupational health and safety audit of BHP Billiton. This will provide the greatest insights, as to what improvements need to be made in the area of occupational safety and health.

An Examination of BHP Billiton

To fully understand, where improvements can be made in the workplace requires looking at an actual employer. This will be accomplished by examining the work environment of BHP Billiton. Currently, company mines various natural resources, from a number of different properties around the world to include: bauxite, aluminum, copper, silver, lead, zinc, nickel, coal, potash, manganese and the exploration of crude oil / natural gas. The occupational health and safety audit that will be conducted, will examine the underlying safety issues that could be affecting a number of employers throughout Australia. Given the fact that BHP Billiton is one of the largest employers, means that the different issues that they are facing, will underscore how businesses are struggling to: maintain a balance between health / safety regulations and the competitive effects of globalization. ("BHP Billiton," 2010)

The Contractor vs. Employee

At the heart, of all labor relationships throughout the commonwealth, is the separation between those individuals that will work on a contractual basis and employees. Where, a contractor has greater flexibility in determining, how they will perform various functions. This is because different legal proceedings have set a precedent, as to what will define the contractual vs. employee relationships. A good example of this can be seen with Zuijs v. Wirth Brother Party Limited. What happened was Zuijs, was a trapeze artist for the circus (which was owned by Wirth Party Limited). During one of the shows, Zuijs would fall off of the high wire, resulting in serious injury. At which point, he would sue his employer under the Workers Compensation Act of 1926. This stated that an individual, who is working for a particular employer, must compensate those employees who are injured on the job. Wirth Brothers claimed that Zuijs was working on a contractual basis, as his skills and natural talent are so specialized, that they require the use of personal judgment (when he was on the high wire). As result, his employer argued that they are not responsible for what happens to him, based upon this relationship. The case would be heard by the High Court of Australia in 1955, where they would side with Zuijs. Commenting about the decision the court said, "Even if one of the circus managers could not interfere with the actual technique of the acrobats and in the character of the act, no reason appears as to why Zuijs should not be subject to his directions in all other aspects. There are countless examples of highly specialized functions in modern life that must be a matter of practical necessity and sometimes even as a matter of law, be performed on the responsibility of persons who possess particular knowledge and skill and who are accordingly qualified. But those engaged to perform the functions may nevertheless work under a contract of service." (Popple, 1996, pg. 302) This is significant, because this case would help establish a foundation between employees and their employers. As the overall nature of the working relationship would change, resulting in various protections for individuals that are injured, during the course of their employment.

As a result, various standards have been created to define this relationship. Where, there are a number of tests that are used to decide if a contractual relationship exists these would include: the control test, the risk test, the delegation test and contracts for tasks vs. contracts for labor. The control test is determined based upon, if an employee is involved in a controlled relationship with their employer. As a number of relevant factors, would highlight this relationship to include the employer controlling: employee hours, work, how an individual will perform the work and places of work. The risk test is when you are looking at the financial risk to an individual. Where, if an individual is bearing a great deal of the monetary risk, they are considered to be a contractor. The delegation test is when you are looking, at the ability of a person to subcontract out any work. Those people, who are prevented from doing so, would be considered employees, as this relationship is under the control of a particular employer. Contracts for tasks vs. contracts for labor, is when you are determining, if a particular arrangement is being conducted on contractual basis, for various tasks or for a stated amount of wages. Those agreements that involve: the individual selling their labor, a single written agreement, are focused on the long-term and do not involve a specific task; would be considered to be a contract of labor. This is when an individual is working for a company as an independent contractor. Where, the various tasks and overall scope of the labor relationship is limited. ("Are You a Contractor or Employee," 2007) This is significant, because it shows how the labor relationship is based upon, if an employer has larger amounts of control of the individuals' actions. In workplace occupational safety, Zuijs v. Wirth Brother Party Limited along with a host of other cases would establish a basic foundation, for various work safety rules throughout the commonwealth. Where, those employees, who were under the direct control of their employers, would be able to seek compensation for injuries that they receive on the job. As they have a legal obligation, to ensure that the workplace is safe for everyone, who is under their direct employment.

The Changing Relationship of the Employer and the Employee / Contractor

Like what was stated previously, globalization has been having a profound impact upon the labor relationship that exists. Where, the nature of this association, is forcing changes in how the two different parties are interacting with each other. As globalization, has been forcing the government to begin to enacting, various laws that are changing how someone is defined, as an employee vs. A contractor. What happened was: a series of regulations and amendments, were enacted in the mid-1990's / early 2000's that would change this relationship. Where, the Workplace Relations Act of 1996 would be one of many changes that were implemented. This is law would dramatically change the relationship between: employers and employees. As it would introduce, a number of dramatic transformations to include: formalized agreements between employers / individual employees (Australia Workplace Agreements), a change in the way collective bargaining agreements are utilized, a reduction in the number of federal labor awards, the banning of closed shops and limitations on union activities. (Workplace Relations Act of 1996, 2010) This would establish a new foundation, in various work regulations throughout… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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