State Governments are well on their way to passing the legislation necessary for Work Health and Safety harmonisation to happen on 1 January 2012. Therefore, it is imperative that you ensure your systems and processes are compliant to the new legislation before then.
The Officers of the business especially need to be aware of the changes coming and how they will be affected. The new legislation will have significant impact upon Australian businesses, with CEOs, CFOs, COOs, etc all being deemed as Officers of a corporation, thereby requiring them to take reasonable steps to acquire knowledge of and keep up-to-date with work health and safety matters.
Having effective systems and processes in place will be paramount to demonstrate compliance with safety legislation. Internal and external audits will play a major part in monitoring workplace practices with reports going straight through to the Board. These audits will need to show what is happening – warts and all – because the Board of Directors will need to know that operationally, the business is doing the right thing.
Levels of penalties proposed under the model legislation are quite significant. However, the proposed increases will not be adopted in WA, with the government citing that the proposed levels are too harsh to inflict upon small businesses. The WA government does indeed support an increase in penalties, just not to the level proposed.
In addition to the increased penalties for non-compliance, Officers can face jail terms as well. Unlike existing law, a breach under the new legislation may be deemed serious even without significant injury or death occurring, as the new approach is about exposure to risk, rather than actual consequences, which is a very significant change. Add into this the requirements for notification to the Regulator, preservation of incident sites, duties that will apply, consultation requirements, authorisations, etc, and you may realise that you still have a lot of work to do to prepare for 1 January 2012.
For more information go to http://www.aurenda.com.au/our_process/WHS_harmonisation/