Western Australia now has the highest work health and safety penalties in the country

04 October 2018

Yesterday, Wednesday, 3 October 2018, two bills, the Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act 2018 (WA) and the Mines Safety and Inspection Amendment Act 2018 (WA) that substantially increase the penalties for work health and safety offences in Western Australia, came into effect.

What you need to do

You should:

  • Ensure that you are taking all reasonably practicable steps to manage the hazards people are exposed to by reason of the operations of your business. When considering this, you need to review both physical and mental health risks. Both safety regulators appear to have become much more proactive in ensuring businesses  are taking reasonably practicable steps to manage psychosocial hazards in the workplace, and we anticipate that prosecutions will arise in this area; and
  • Consider whether your business should review its insurance policies with a view to obtaining some insurance coverage for fines.

If you are unsure whether you are currently meeting all of your safety obligations, we can help to ensure that you understand the obligations and are properly conducting the necessary assessment of what are the reasonably practicable steps to manage identified hazards.

The changes

New maximum penalties have been introduced based upon those contained in the national model Work Health and Safety Act, with a 14% increase for inflation since those penalties were first proposed in 2010 and are then rounded to make whole numbers. The inclusion of an inflation increase means that Western Australia now has the highest maximum penalties for health and safety offences in the country.

When introducing the two bills into parliament, the Western Australian Government said that the new penalties will provide an increased incentive to comply with workplace safety laws and ensure penalties meet community expectations. Furthermore, the updated penalties will highlight the importance of maintaining a safe workplace.

The table below contains a quick guide to the new penalties:

Penalty level Duty holder Offence Old OHS penalty New penalty
1 Employee First $5,000 $50,000
1 Subsequent $6,250 $60,000
1 Individual First $25,000 $100,000
1 Subsequent $31,500 $120,000
1 Body Corporate First $50,000 $450,000
1 Subsequent $62,500 $570,000
2 Individual First $100,000 $250,000
2 Subsequent $125,000 $350,000
2 Body Corporate First $200,000 $1,500,000
2 Subsequent $250,000 $1,800,000
3 Individual First $200,000 $400,000
3 Subsequent $250,000 $500,000
3 Body Corporate First $400,000 $2,000,000
3 Subsequent $500,000 $2,500,000
4 Individual First $250,000 and 2 years imprisonment $550,000 and 5 years imprisonment
4 Subsequent $312,500 and 2 years imprisonment $680,000 and 5 years imprisonment
4 Body Corporate First $500,000 $2,700,000
4 Subsequent $625,000 $3,500,000

These increases have occurred during the Western Australian Government’s current review of each Act, which, following a consultation process will be repealed and replaced with a single Act based on the Model WHS law, addressing all Western Australian workplaces due to concerns about the levels of some fines being imposed by the Courts and the perception that they do not meet community expectations with respect to safety in the workplace.

This article was written by Sarah Harrison, Partner.

Sarah Harrison

P: +61 8 9420 1568

E: sharrison@hwle.com.au

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