At home with workplace safety

As new harmonised occupational health and safety laws came into effect this week, the growing number of Australian working from home - and how they are protected - is sharply in focus.

Jeffrey Phillips, a Sydney-based barrister specialising in industrial and employment law, recently gave a speech about forthcoming changes to Occupational Health and Safety legislation to a Barristers' Clerks Association conference. In it, he recounted a segment from a show that ran on ABC radio, created and presented by US writer and humourist, Garrison Keillor. The show included spoof advertisements, one of which was called "Worst-Case Scenario". "It's a telephone service where you can call a pessimist named Ralph and he will tell you the worst that can happen to your proposed plans," says Phillips. "On one occasion, a guy calls Ralph to ask what the worst-case scenario will be if he takes his wife to the movies that night. Ralph replies, 'You want the worst-case scenario? Your wife will ask you to go out to the snack bar and get her something to drink. On the way back to your seat, you'll trip over someone's feet and spill your drinks on the people in the row in front of you. They'll sue you for all you're worth. You'll lose your house and car and job. Your wife will divorce you and take the kids with her. You'll start drinking and end up on skid row.' The caller says, 'Hey, thanks! I'd never thought about it that way. I guess I'll stay home tonight.'"

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