On 12 October 2017, the Queensland Parliament passed the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (the amendment Act).
The amendment Act amends the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), Electrical Safety Act 2002 (ES Act) and the Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011 (SRWA Act) to implement key recommendations of the Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. A summary of the amendments is outlined below.
Provisions to commence on assent of the amendment Act:
· introduction of a new offence of industrial manslaughter in the WHS Act with mirror amendments in the ES Act and SRWA Act
· requirement for a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to provide the regulator with a list of Health and Safety Representatives and deputy Health and Safety Representatives for each work group
· prohibiting enforceable undertakings being accepted for contraventions, or alleged contraventions, of the WHS Act that involve a fatality, with mirror amendments to the ES Act and the SRWA Act, and
· providing that codes of practice will expire five years after they are approved to allow for more timely review of codes.
Provisions to commence on 1 July 2018:
· restoring the status of codes of practice as existed under the repealed Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 to require the safety measures in a code to be followed unless equal to or better than measures can be demonstrated
· mandating training for Health and Safety Representatives within six months of being elected to the role, with refresher training to be undertaken at three-yearly intervals
· introducing the ability for a PCBU to appoint a Work Health and Safety Officer (WHSO)
· requiring a PCBU to display a current list of WHSOs for the workplace
· enabling the appointment of a WHSO or the election of a HSR to be permissible as evidence that a PCBU has taken action to mitigate health and safety risks, and
· clarifying inspector investigation powers under section 171 of the WHS Act to ensure these powers are not inappropriately limited by a legal technicality.
Provisions to commence on proclamation:
· expansion of the jurisdiction of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) to hear and determine disputes relating to work health and safety issues, cease work matters, requests for assistance by Health and Safety Representatives, and the provision of information to Health and Safety Representatives. Disputes will not be able to be lodged with the QIRC until 24 hours after an inspector has been requested to assist with resolving a dispute and the dispute remains unresolved.
· establishing an independent statutory office for work health and safety prosecutions. The statutory office will be headed by a WHS Prosecutor appointed by the Governor-in-Council for a five year renewable term, and
· enabling inspectors to make a determination about whether the WHS entry permit holder has a valid right of entry or has complied with notice requirements under sections 119 or 122 of the WHS Act.
A copy of the Act as passed and explanatory notes will be available on the Queensland Legislation website atwww.legislation.qld.gov.au/browse/aspassed.
In 2011, Safe Work Australia developed a single set of laws to be implemented across Australia. These are known as ‘model’ laws. For the to become legally binding, the Commonwealth, states and territories must separately implement them as their own laws.
We are responsible for maintaining the , but we don’t regulate or enforce them.
These elements are supported by the National compliance and enforcement policy, which sets out principles of how regulators monitor and enforce compliance with their jurisdictions’ laws.
regulators in the Commonwealth and in each state and territory are responsible for regulating and enforcing the laws in their jurisdictions. The have been implemented in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Commonwealth. Some jurisdictions have made minor variations to make sure the legislation is consistent with their relevant drafting protocols and other laws and processes.
For information on the operation of laws in your jurisdiction, please see the laws in your state or contact your WHS regulator.
Model WHS Act
The model WHS Act forms the basis of the Acts that have been implemented in most jurisdictions across Australia.
The main object of the Act is to provide for a balanced and nationally consistent framework to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces. It does this by:
- protecting workers and other persons from harm by requiring duty holders to eliminate or minimise risk
- providing for fair and effective representation, consultation and cooperation
- encouraging unions and employer organisations to take a constructive role in promoting improvements in practices
- promoting the provision of advice, information, education and training for
- securing compliance with the Act through effective and appropriate compliance and enforcement measures
- ensuring appropriate scrutiny and review of actions taken by persons with powers or functions under the Act
- providing a framework for continuous improvement
- maintaining and strengthening national harmonisation of laws and facilitating a consistent national approach to .
We have published some additional documents that complement the :
The Explanatory Memorandum to the model WHS Act explains how the Act operates.
Guide to the model WHS Act
The Guide to the model WHS Act provides an overview of the Act and will help you understand health and safety duties at work.
The interpretive guidelines are a formal statement on how regulators believe key concepts in the operate, and indicate how the laws will be enforced. We have published four interpretive guidelines:
Model WHS Regulations
The model WHS Regulations set out detailed requirements to support the duties in the model WHS Act. They also prescribe procedural or administrative requirements to support the (for example requiring licences for specific activities and keeping records).
We have published some additional documents that complement the .
Explanatory Statement to the model WHS Regulations
The Explanatory Statement to the model WHS Regulations explains how the operate.
Guide to the model WHS Regulations
The Guide to the model WHS Regulations provides a broad overview of the .
Model Codes of Practice
Model Codes of Practice are practical guides to achieving the standards of health and safety required under the and Regulations.
To have legal effect in a jurisdiction, a model must be approved as a code of practice there. To determine if a model has been approved in a particular jurisdiction, check with your local WHS regulator.
An approved code of practice applies to anyone who has a duty of care in the circumstances described in the code. In most cases, following an approved code of practice would achieve compliance with the health and safety duties in a jurisdiction’s Act and Regulations.
Like regulations, codes of practice deal with particular issues and do not cover all hazards or risks that may arise. Health and safety duties require you to consider all risks associated with work, not only those risks that regulations and codes of practice exist for.
While approved codes of practice are not law, they are admissible in court proceedings. Courts may regard an approved code of practice as evidence of what is known about a hazard, risk or control and may rely on the relevant code to determine what is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.
Review of the model WHS laws
Ministers responsible for have agreed to review the in 2018. The review of the model WHS laws is currently underway.
National compliance and enforcement policy
Ministers have agreed to the National compliance and enforcement policy to support the by ensuring a nationally consistent approach to compliance and enforcement.
The policy sets out the aims of compliance and enforcement as well as the principles underpinning the approach regulators will take to monitoring and enforcing compliance with laws.
The National compliance and enforcement policy was endorsed by our on 29 July 2011 and by the Relations Ministers’ Council on 10 August 2011.
Harmonising WHS laws
Harmonisation of laws was part of the Council of Australian Governments’ () National Reform Agenda that aimed to reduce regulatory burden and create a seamless national economy. The formal harmonisation process started with the establishment of the Intergovernmental agreement for regulatory and operational reform in occupational health and safetyin July 2008.
The objectives of harmonising laws through a model framework include:
- protect the health and safety of workers
- improve safety outcomes in workplace
- reduce compliance costs for business
- improve efficiency for regulatory agencies.
We are responsible for maintaining the . We cannot advise you about laws in your jurisdiction. If you need help, please contact your local regulator.