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Consultation on the Work Health and Safety Act incident notification provisions

Safe Work Australia has recently called for stakeholder feedback on proposed changes to notification requirements under the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act), following the recommendations of the original Boland Review of WHS laws in 2018 (Review).

A consistent view expressed in the consultation process conducted by the Review was that the incident notification provisions were causing confusion, were ambiguous and did not necessarily capture all relevant incidents. The report prepared following the Review noted that the “most common concern was the lack of express notification triggers for psychological injuries”. There was said to be confusion about whether psychological health issues needed to be notified and when. It was suggested that adding a notification trigger for psychological injury might assist.

The safety regulators themselves provided feedback about this lack of clarity, and while they agreed that improved guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) would assist there was also a view that provisions in the model WHS Act should be revised to address ambiguities.

As a result, Safe Work Australia undertook a review of the provisions in the model WHS Act and WHS Regulations, with a particular focus on psychosocial hazards. Since that time, new psychosocial risk regulations have been introduced into the model WHS Regulations and enacted in a number of jurisdictions.

Consultation paper

Safe Work Australia has now moved to the next stage and issued a consultation paper, which looks at various options available to improve the notification provisions. The consultation paper is said to explore “options involving batched, periodic reporting (rather than immediate notification) for certain incidents that do not require immediate investigation or response by the WHS regulator.

“This approach would allow WHS regulators to identify both PCBUs where prevalence of these incidents is higher and PCBUs who may fail to report, and investigate the systems the PCBU has in place to protect workers (rather than the circumstances of an individual incident).

“A range of options to address specific gaps and ambiguities in the incident notification framework are also explored, as well as opportunities to improve the guidance materials for PCBUs to support improved understanding and compliance with the requirements.”

To make a submission, you can visit Safe Work Australia’s online consultation platform, Engage.

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