Newsroom

Labour or life for hire? Symposium to examine the international plight of the labour hire worker

16 June 2011

Contract or temporary work might be convenient for some or an unintended necessity for others, but it can be a health hazard for the people involved, a Deakin University symposium on Occupational Health and Safety and Precarious Workers will hear tomorrow, Friday, June 17.

The symposium will be held at Deakin University's Melbourne City Campus, Bourke Street Melbourne from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

Work safety expert and symposium organiser, Deakin University Senior Lecturer Dr Elsa Underhill who will also be presenting on the day said occupational health and safety for people working in temporary or labour hire roles was a national concern.

"Labour hire workers are particularly vulnerable to poorer OHS outcomes," she said.

"Their insecure employment puts them at greater risk of injury.

"The reasons for this can include the need to continue working with injuries, more intense work tasks or indeed more hazardous tasks; poor matching of the person's skills to the job involved, inadequate training, complex communication systems and a culture of non-compliance across the sector."

Dr Underhill said she and her co-presenter Professor Michael Quinlan from the University of New South Wales would report on a study of labour hire employers and hosts in Queensland, and outline ways in which compliance with regulatory requirements in the labour sector can be improved.

"Larger labour hire companies had a better record regarding OHS because they had a more strategic approaching to placing workers," she said.

"For instance they engaged in advanced planning, avoided high risk placements and those on short notice, and employed qualified staff who conducted appropriate risk assessments prior to placements.

"Smaller labour hire companies had more diverse approaches. On the one hand, smaller niche operators demonstrated that it was possible for smaller agencies to place labour hire workers safely when the agency had developed on-going relationships with the host and with their own employees.

"On the other hand, many labour hire agencies and hosts pointed to the detrimental role of small agencies with little knowledge of or interest in OHS.

"These agencies undercut the more responsible agencies, not least because of the lack of investment in time and resources to provide safe placement processes (such as training and risk assessments). "

Other presentations at the symposium will include a presentation from Tessa Keegel from the University of Melbourne which examines whether precariously employed workers are less likely to participate in occupational health and safety.

"This Australian study demonstrates that precarious employment undermines the legislative intent of worker participation policy because neither the structural nor direct pathways are successful for enabling precariously employed workers to engage in OHS worker participation," Dr Underhill said.

"Our other presenters look at the plight of Filipino nationals in the maritime industry in which precarious and hazardous employment is the norm and the OHS experiences of Samoan temporary migrant workers employed on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme."

Further information

News facts
  • Occupational health and safety for people working in temporary or labour hire roles is a national concern
  • Labour hire workers are particularly vulnerable to poorer OHS outcomes
  • Reasons can include the need to continue working with injuries, more intense work tasks or indeed more hazardous tasks; poor matching of the person's skills to the job involved, inadequate training, complex communication systems and a culture of non-compliance across the sector

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221 / 0422 005 485
sandra.kingston@deakn.edu.au

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

16th June 2011