International OHS series: Dissecting a country: Australia

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For some time, PrevenControl has worked in developing a series of international guides. The purpose of these guides is none other than to serve as a “mater tool” for managing the expatriation of one or more workers to nations all over the globe.

“If the world is made up of countries, each country is a world in itself.” Maybe Australia is the best place to stage this axiom: you can escape from few trivialities in a country in which the population of kangaroos is twice that of people. This post aims to give very short strokes on the large canvas called Australia: an attractive country to tourist eyes … and to the investor.


SafeWork Australia: one of the best OHS promoters …

 … in the world. Just take a look at the web site of this government agency to realize that there is no way you can finish it in a day. OHS legislation and regulations in the country, statistical reports, worker compensation system, publications that comprehensively address the exposure to asbestos, nanomaterials, road transport of goods, hazardous substances, work with special risks and so on.

Especially noteworthy is its Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022, which the agency is committed to achieving minimum targets by 2020 such as:

  • Reduction of 20% of fatal accidents
  • 30% reduction in the rate of absenteeism with leaves of a week or more.
  • 30% reduction in the rate of absenteeism due to TME with leaves of a week or more.


The various regional offices specializing in health and safety at work are also the best worldwide in promoting safe work:


An integration of scheduled prevention in the regulations

Law 31/95 and the Regulation Prevention Services have the legal obligation for companies to promote the integration of prevention at all levels of the organization. This commitment is – or should be – reflected in all company polices, assigning specific roles for each hierarchical layer. However, the allocation of roles and responsibilities in OHS is something that varies depending on the wishes of the organization.

The Work Health & Safety Act (the main OHS policy document of the country) goes further: it establishes responsibilities and specific roles to each of the ranks of the organization. For example, managers and supervisors are required by law to:

  • Implement the procedures established in the OHS policy for it functional unit.
  • Ensure that all risks in the jobs of the unit are well identified, assessed and appropriately monitored.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of control measures and correction of the deviations produced.
  • Consult workers included in their scope of management on the changes and decisions that they decide to adopt concerning safety and health.

A complex and fragmented taxation

The territory of the Commonwealth of Australia consists of six states and two territories, each of which has a high degree of competence to legislate and establish policies applicable to its territory.

An example is found in the country’s tax system. Its structure is extremely complex and constantly changing. The main reason that motivates the complexity of the system is that it is a decentralized structure: Federal Government, states and municipalities have self-assessed tax powers.

The lack of harmonization and fiscal stability, together with the obstacles and delays in granting visas, are two of the main obstacles that established multinationals in Australia have to handle.

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Social benefits that are far from our system

As an Anglo-Saxon country, Australia has a system of social security and a culture of prevention and health and safety at work that is far above the average for industrialized countries.

For example, the Government of Australia provides a free labour law service that manages claims for accidents at work or occupational disease for those affected. Another example is the couples paid parental leave by the Australian government. This permission also applies to cases of adoption, whether they are parents of different or same gender.

High degree of labour flexibility

Working conditions such as the maximum working week, annual leave, parental leave (includes maternity and paternity), … are regulated by the “National Employment Standards”. These standards determine a set of minimums that protect workers, but may be modified so long as there is agreement between the parties and reasonable cause.

For example, the working day in Australia is generally 38 hours a week. Still, it is customary for Australian workers to expand to 40 hours weekly of working time and free up a Monday per week to pay off a schedule surplus. It is also customary in some sectors (mining, for example) to extend the working day to 12 hours to later subtract  resting 1 every 4 weeks.


Visa processing. Mission impossible?

For a businessman or woman, visiting the Australian country implies no major problem as long as combined visits per year do not exceed a 3-month stay. In this case, simply apply electronically with the “eVisitor Visa,” which will almost surely be granted to the applicant.

Expatriate personnel for a period exceeding three months is another story. In these cases, the most common choice for eligible skilled workers to move is signing up for the Program for Qualified Migration. Yes, the entry requirements are few: hold a profession listed in their Skilled Occupation  List (SOL) (list includes professions that are of interest for the development of the country); minimum experience of 12 months from the date of graduation, age not exceeding 50 years and a minimum upper-intermediate level of English   (Corroborated by performing the “English Language Testing System” (IELTS).

It makes you think that despite the huge bureaucratic process that it represents and its difficulties, this program makes up 70% of the visas for the country of Australia. That means that 7 out of 10 people who enter the country with the intention of staying correspond to a young profile with qualified training, experience and a good level of English.

A humble and practical mentality to work

Both at work and outside it, Australians are often humble people who rarely brag about their successes and achievements. They do not like arrogant, snooty and ostentatious people. They value modesty, loyalty, honesty and professionalism.

Similarly, a job well done is not seen as a virtue but as an implied obligation at work. That means that they often do not “reward”, even verbally, a great job.

Have you been working in Australia? Share your experience with us!



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