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May 18, 2009 – 7:59PM

Australia is a step closer to having a national Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) system after state and federal workplace relations ministers met on Monday, a leading business group says.

The ministers agreed to a framework for national laws to replace the current situation in which each state runs its own OHS regime.

A communique issued by the ministers after the meeting said it was a historic day for workers’ safety.

Heather Ridout, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, said the decision paved the way for a genuinely national OHS system.

“Safety is too important to have the rules rewritten in every state,” she said.

Businesses would have problems with some of the recommendations made at the meeting, but that could be worked on, Ms Ridout said.

She supported some recommendations, including the principle that a person accused in an OHS case was innocent until proved guilty, instead of the other way around as practised in some states.

It was also good news that bosses would be required to do what was reasonably practicable to provide a safe workplace, Ms Ridout said.

Workplace Ministers will next meet in June.

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