WA Safety Reform – what it means for you

05 November 2020

The changes to WA safety and health legislation have been in the works for some years. Finally, the Work Health Safety (WHS) Bill 2019 has passed the lower house and will take effect in early 2021 once the regulations are drafted.

The WHS legislation will impact on every workplace in WA. This WHS legislation will repeal the state’s existing Occupational Health & Safety Act and replace the safety provisions in the Mines Safety & Inspection Act.

Supporting the WHS legislation will be new regulations, including separate regulations for the mining industry and for the petroleum and geothermal industry.

The new laws aim to reflect a number of the provisions in the ‘Model WHS laws’ that are already in place in most of Australia.

With the introduction of the new safety laws it will be essential for you to be informed of the key changes and how they will affect you, your business and your workers.

The key changes in the new legislation:

  • Extends the duties beyond the traditional employee-employer relationships and duties relating to workers by introducing the new concept of ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ (PCBU) in place of the term ’employer’. This term broadly covers business and undertakings conducted by a person (including employers, principal contractors, head contractors and franchisors plus more);
  • Creates “due diligence” responsibilities required of an Officer to ensure workplace health and safety. This includes managers. If you are an Officer for the purposes of the Corporations Act, then this means you!
  • Introduces a broad definition of ‘worker’ instead of ‘employee’ to recognise the changing nature of work relationships and to ensure health and safety protection is extended to all types of workers;
  • Widens the definition of ‘workplace’ to includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work (e.g. areas like corridors, lifts, lunchrooms and bathrooms);
  • Makes it an offence for Officers and PCBUs to be insured to cover fines for breaching the WHS legislation;
  • For PCBUs and Officers, introduces a new Industrial Manslaughter offence and offences for Failing to Comply with Health and Safety Duties, giving rise to penalties which carry terms of imprisonment and fines of up to $10 million;
  • Broadens the definition of ‘health’ to include psychological health with respect to the PCBUs duties to ensure the health and safety of its workers;
  • The Officer and PCBU now need to meet broader consultation, cooperation and coordination duties and requirements including consulting with workers;
  • Requires the regulator to be notified of incidents involving the death of a person and serious illness or injury, but also of a dangerous incident; and
  • Establishes protections against victimisation for raising a safety concern.

How to be informed

With the changes in the WHS legislation, you will have new obligations. In early 2021, we will offer two different information sessions for the new safety laws.

WHS Information Session 1 – for Officers, including directors
If you are an Officer under the Corporations Act then this information session is designed for you. In a one hour seminar, we will provide an overview of your key obligations to comply with the WHS legislation.

WHS Information Session 2 – for managers and leaders
This session is designed for those senior people in the organisation who have responsibility for the oversight of the workforce. Over 90 minutes, we will explain your key compliance obligations and some steps for how you can make sure your workplace is compliant.

Details for the information sessions will be available shortly. If you have any queries in the meantime or want to get your information session locked in, please contact Erica Hartley.

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