Tag Archives: model legislation

WHS Harmonisation – What’s Happening?

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.

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Are you ready for the new Work Health and Safety Harmonisation legislation?

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/ 

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Filed under Harmonisation, Occupational Health and Safety, Work Health and Safety