|In this special edition:
Harmonisation of Workplace Health and Safety
On the 1 January 2012, all jurisdictions across Australia will implement model work health and safety (WHS) laws. This harmonisation process is part of the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) National Reform Agenda where all Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments agreed to achieve national consistency through the development of a WHS legislative framework (including model WHS Act, model regulations and Codes of Practice).
The WHS harmonisation process was agreed to in order to deliver similar laws in each jurisdiction to ensure a more consistent approach across state borders, reduce the red tape and compliance costs on business and create a seamless national economy.
The national model Work Health and Safety Act was endorsed by the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council in December 2009. Now, Safe Work Australia (SWA) is consulting on a range of documents that aim to assist employers and other duty holders to comply with their respective duties of care and include the Draft Model WHS Regulations and Model Codes of Practice. The main elements of the new national WHS Act are listed below for your information.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) is currently preparing a submission to SWA in response to this consultation process, as well as preparing information to assist our members and the businesses who receive our WHS services to prepare for the forthcoming changes in legislation. We are also working with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland on issues in the lead up to and implementation of the new legislation in Queensland.
As part of CCIQ’s submission to SWA we are undertaking a survey of businesses to obtain an understanding of where employers are at in relation to WHS and to identify concerns employers have about moving to a new system from 1 January 2012. The survey will take approximately 10 minutes to complete and will close at 5pm on Wednesday 30 March 2011.
To complete the survey click here.
Key Elements of the National Model WHS Act
The national model Work Health and Safety Act was endorsed by the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council in December 2009. Under the Act, duties of care exist for employers, persons in control of a workplace, upstream parties (such as designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers) as well as workers.
Detailed information on the national model WHS Act is available on the SWA explanatory memorandum which can be found by following the link at the Safe Work Australia website.
Within the national model WHS Act is the primary duty of care for employers will be to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and others who may be affected by the carrying out of work. Furthermore, there will be a requirement that officers of corporations and unincorporated bodies exercise due diligence to ensure compliance.
Other key elements of the national model WHS requirements include:
- Reporting requirements for notifiable incidents such as the serious illness, injury or death of persons and dangerous incidents arising out of the business or undertaking;
- Authorisations such as licences, permits and registrations (eg. for persons engaged in high risk work or users of certain plant or substances);
- Provision for worker consultation, participation and representation at the workplace;
- Provision for the resolution of health and safety issues;
- Protection against discrimination for those who exercise or perform, or seek to exercise or perform, powers, functions or rights under the Act;
- An entry permit scheme that allows union officials to inquire into suspected contraventions affecting workers who are members, or eligible to be members of the relevant union and to consult and advise such workers about health and safety matters;
- Compliance and enforcement measures and sanctions, including enforceable undertakings; and
- Regulation-making powers and administrative processes, such as the review of decisions.
Key Changes from Current Queensland WHS Requirements
One of the key changes between current Queensland WHS laws and the new system is that the duty of care is quantified by the term “reasonably practicable”, meaning that employers will be required to do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the WHS of their employees, rather than the current obligation for employers to “ensure” the WHS of their employees (an absolute duty of care).
Furthermore, workers will be required to exercise reasonable care to ensure that their acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons at the workplace.
There will also be a move away from company directors being held liable for infringements by the company, however they will be required to have a positive and proactive duty to exercise due diligence. This requires company directors to:
- Acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of health and safety matters;
- Gain an understanding of hazards and risks associated with the company’s operations;
- Ensure appropriate resources are available for use to eliminate/minimise risks from work carried out;
- Ensure appropriate processes for obtaining information about incidents, hazards and risks, and responding to them;
- Ensure processes for complying with duties are implemented, e.g. reporting, consultation arrangements, training and instruction;
- Verify the provision and use of resources for the matters listed above.
Other key changes between current Queensland WHS laws and the new laws include:
- There is no reverse onus of proof. The onus of proving all elements of an offence, including whether the duty holder has adopted reasonable practicable measures, rests with the Regulator;
- Workplace Health and Safety Officers (WHSOs) will not be required, however health and safety representatives (HSRs) have increased training and rights within the workplace;
- HSRs will represent defined work groups which need to be negotiated with the business operator;
- Health and safety issues are to be resolved in accordance with an agreed dispute resolution procedure which must be in writing;
- HSRs will be able to issue provisional improvement notices (PIN’s) and can direct workers to cease work after consultation and an attempt to resolve an issue, or without consultation if there is an immediate and imminent threat to health and safety.
Where To From Here?
The model WHS Act was agreed in 2009. The model WHS Regulations and priority model Codes of Practice have been released for public consultation until the 4 April 2011. Following the closure of this consultation period, SWA will review all submissions and make necessary changes.
In June 2011, the model WHS Regulations package will be presented to and agreed by the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council. Following approval by Cabinet, all State and Territory Governments will then be responsible for implementing the model Act, Regulations and Codes of Practice in their jurisdictions for commencement on the 1 January 2012.
Additional information on the current consultation process is available on the Safe Work Australia website. To contact CCIQ, please email [email protected].
To complete the survey and go in the draw for a $250 Coles Group and Myer Gift Voucher, please complete the attached survey by 5pm Wednesday 30th March 2011.
Contact t: 07 3842 2267 | e: [email protected] | w: www.cciq.com.au
This email was sent to [email protected] from Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland
Received & published by Henry Sapiecha