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2018 problems, 1972 solutions?

When Lord Roben's completed his review of health and safety legislation in the UK – a review which forms the basis of all Australian health and safety legislation, including WHS – the world with a very different place.

Technology as we know it, did not exist. There was no such thing as the "gig economy". Unions still had significant influence in workplaces and work was organised along demarcated job types.

Perhaps more importantly, the term "Safety Culture" was not part of the safety lexicon – that did not happen until about 1988, after the investigations into the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Prof James Reason did not write his book on Human Error until 1990.

Western Australia is the latest jurisdiction to tinker at the edges of health and safety legislation, which remains fundamentally unchanged since the early 1980s, as we thrash about with the ongoing saga of trying to adapt WHS legislation to our jurisdiction.

The entire social and intellectual context of health and safety was unimaginable to Lord Roben's in 1972. Why is it then that his thinking still forms the basis of safety regulation in Australia? Increasing penalties and adding industrial manslaughter does not change the foundations of our legislation.

Might there be another way?

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