Significant changes proposed to WA safety laws

By Michael Selinger on July 13th, 2017

After more than five years since the introduction of the harmonised health and safety laws in Australia, the Western Australian government has finally announced that it is committed to aligning its legislation with the model Work Health & Safety Act.

The decision was made this week to push for a single Act, which will be supported by additional regulations for the major hazard mining and petroleum sectors.

There is still no guarantee that the Western Australian Work Health & Safety Act will mirror exactly the laws in other jurisdictions, but it is likely to have the benefit of drawing on the observations from businesses and industry groups regarding the operation of the harmonised laws in neighbouring jurisdictions.

If your business operates in Western Australia, you should follow closely the proposed changes to the health and safety legislation as they will constitute a significant shift in the laws – and in your obligations.

As there will be extensive consultation with businesses, you should talk to your industry lobby group and keep an eye out for the consultation dates. It is expected that the laws will come into operation in 2019.

This will be your opportunity to have real input into changing the existing laws which, as the government acknowledged in its media release, are 30 years old and out of date.

WHS Act reviews

Most jurisdictions in Australia are currently going through their statutorily required first or second review of the Work Health & Safety Act and receiving detailed submissions on how the laws operate and what, if any, changes should be made.

For example, in South Australia, many submissions have focused on the operation of the right of entry provisions as well as criticism of the requirement for principal contractors to obtain Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) from sub-contractors and take active steps to check that they are being complied with and updated.

Victoria yet to harmonise

Victoria remains the jurisdiction that has not embraced the model laws and shows no sign of a move towards harmonisation.

Although much of the law in Victoria already reflects elements of the WHS laws, the failure to harmonise has meant a different approach has been taken to some safety issues, not least of which include the use of different codes of practice – and, for example, requiring that the owner of land be the one to appoint a principal contractor, rather than the person actually commissioning the construction project.

Assuming all States’ and Territories’ workplace health and safety laws are the same can prove to be a huge mistake. Are you sure that you are doing all you can to protect the health and safety of your workers while obeying the laws?

As I point out, even when WA pushes to adopt the harmonised laws, there will still most likely be some differences between that State and other jurisdictions that you need to be aware of, especially if your business operates in more than one State or Territory. Remember, Victoria has its own ‘set of rules’ – some are identical to other jurisdictions, while others are not.

That’s why, as Editor-in-Chief of the Health & Safety Handbook, my expert legal team and I have painstakingly identified all the differences in the health and safety laws between jurisdictions and have included them in the comprehensive Handbook.

Each chapter is written in plain English, in bite-size chunks to make this vital information easy to understand and implement.

Subscribers to the Handbook also receive regular updates throughout the year so that the information they have is always current – which is essential, especially when major changes like those happening in WA occur.

The Health & Safety Handbook is currently available to you on an obligation-free trial. That way you can test it out to see how it applies to your business.

Ordering your copy today might be one of the few risk-free business decisions you can make!


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