With recent reports in the media that Western Australia and Victoria have ‘pulled out’ of the harmonisation of OH&S laws, you might be tempted to become complacent about the process of preparing your organisation for the implementation of Work Health and Safety. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by this news; governments around the country have committed to a national set of safety laws and it is a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’ as far as the introduction of these laws in WA and Victoria.
Most states have already passed the relevant legislation to enact the new WHS laws on 1 January 2012. WA and Victoria have complained that information delays from the Federal Government about the specifics of the WHS Regulations mean that their impact on business cannot be accurately assessed, and consequently have not yet introduced the new legislation. (The Model WHS Regulations are at this point going through final iterations primarily to do with specific wording used.)
WorkSafe WA has requested that there be a minimum period of six months between the introduction of the legislation and its enactment, in order to give WorkSafe enough time to understand and prepare for its role in regulating Work Health and Safety in WA. That means that at the earliest, it will be mid-2012 before the new laws govern safety in Western Australia.
In the meantime, the Federal Government announced transition arrangements in early November 2011 that will provide a ‘grace period’ of up to 12 months for businesses that will need to “significantly change” their practices to comply with the new laws. Each jurisdiction will decide what this means in real terms, providing WA and Victoria with some scope to overcome their objections to the current expectation of a 1 January 2012 implementation date.
Key aspects of WHS that should keep it a priority for you to keep working toward include:
- A reverse of the onus of proof from current laws, meaning that Prosecutors will need to prove the employer did not take all reasonably practicable measures to prevent the risk to safety and health from taking place;
- Officers of a corporation will be required to exercise due diligence to ensure the organisation complies with safety responsibilities; and
- Broader obligations to consult with people performing work, including contractors.
For an overview on Work Health and Safety Harmonisation and what it could mean to you, take a look at AurendaTV on YouTube http://youtu.be/omnnB0wphO4.