‘Tis the season to reflect on safety
As we close out the end of 2022, it is helpful to reflect on some of the significant changes in work health and safety (WHS) law this year, particularly:
- the harmonisation of Western Australia’s WHS laws;
- the dismantling of COVID restrictions; and
- the new regulatory focus on managing psychosocial hazards.
Western Australia’s harmonisation of its WHS laws heralds a significant step towards uniform laws in all jurisdictions. Although Victoria remains on its pre-harmonised laws, it’s laws largely reflect the model laws. The next stage of harmonisation will be for safety regulators to apply greater uniformity in the implementation of the National Compliance and Enforcement Policy. There is still a lack of uniformity in the country, with some regulators having adopted the policy in whole and others implementing parts of the policy. There also remain quite different approaches to organisations’ eligibility for enforceable undertakings and the level of fines imposed by courts, despite the same categories of offences applying across jurisdictions.
You can revisit our rundown of the WA harmonisation here.
The year started with COVID restrictions of some kind still being in place in most jurisdictions, with the end of year seeing an almost complete dismantling of those protections in most areas of life. The change did not see an improvement in the health of workers – quite the opposite, with a significant increase in illness and cases of COVID and other viruses.
As we move into 2023, although life will have less restrictions, it is important for employers to remain focused on their duty of care with respect to the management and control of viruses in the workplace, particularly those operating in high-risk environments, such as hospitals, health facilities and aged-care facilities. Simple lessons we have learned from the previous years of the pandemic regarding hygiene, social distancing and masks may still play an important part in your WHS management system.
There has been a significant regulatory push for organisations to take a proactive approach to identifying and managing the risks posed by psychosocial hazards. These are hazards in the workplace, whether workplace design, workload or human interaction, that can lead to the risk of a psychological or physical injury. The implementation of new regulations and a code of practice requiring specific focus on these hazards is a shift in the law that will be an important focus for all businesses going forward. The change is also supported by Respect@Work laws focused on stamping out sexual harassment at work, with the Federal Human Rights Commissioner now able to undertake their own investigations as to compliance.
At the Health & Safety Handbook, we recently introduced a new chapter, Psychosocial hazards, to help you meet your obligations in this area.
We’re taking a break for the holidays. The Health & Safety Bulletin will return the week of 16 January 2023.
Wishing you all the best for the season. Remember to think safety and stay healthy!
From the experts behind the Health & Safety Handbook, the Bulletin brings you the latest work health and safety news, legal updates, case law and practical advice straight to your inbox every week.