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Recommended changes to the Model Work Health Safety Laws!

Posted by Andy Perry on 1 May 2019

What does it mean to you?   

Safe Work Australia has conducted an independent review of the Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Laws and have made 34 recommendations that may impact organisations and/or individuals in the future. The review was undertaken to support the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022. Further information can be accessed via:

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/about-us/australian-work-health-and-safety-strategy-2012-2022

Most of the industries consulted as part of the review, urged the Governments of Victoria and Western Australia to adopt the model WHS laws as a matter of urgency and other jurisdictions to minimise variations to the model where possible, whilst maintaining and demonstrating consistency of the harmonisation objectives nationally. Victoria has stated it will not accept the WHS in its current form. Western Australia has drafted a bill for the development of modernised Work Health and Safety that is expected to be introduced to State Parliament in mid-2019. Further information on Western Australian decision can be obtained:

http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe/development-modernised-work-health-and-safety-bill


A major recommendation was outlined in Chapter 6 for prosecutions and legal proceedings. Queensland and the ACT are the only jurisdictions that currently have an industrial manslaughter offence in addition to the Category 13 offences. The Queensland offence is part of its WHS Act, and the ACT offence is included in its criminal statute. In addition, the ACT Government, in its submission to the Senate inquiry into industrial deaths, advocated 'the inclusion of an industrial manslaughter provision in model work health and safety laws that is based on the Queensland model'.

It should be noted that prior to its re-election on 24 November 2018, the Government of Victoria announced that it would enact an industrial manslaughter offence into Victorian laws, if re-elected. A similar announcement was made by the opposition in New South Wales. Should each of the jurisdictions establish its own industrial manslaughter offence, they may take different approaches, further undermining harmonisation on this issue.

Several industries raised their concern with current insurance policies that are available to protect the insured company and its directors, principals, partners and workers for their liability to pay fines which may arise out of wrongful breaches of the many Acts which control their operations, including the relevant WHS Acts. It was reported that this may undermine the court's sentencing powers and diminishes the deterrent effect of the WHS penalties.

The last chapter outlined some minor amendments with the Model WHS Regulations in relation to risk management practices for high risk work, including but not limited to: Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS), licensing, recording and the use of standards.
The full report can be accessed through;

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/review-model-whs-laws-final-report

Author: Andy Perry
Tags: Andy Perry

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