Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act
The introduction of the new Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act ensures a nationally consistent approach of protection for the health, safety and welfare of workers in all states and territories from hazards and risks arising from work as is reasonably practicable.
Under the new work health and safety (WHS) laws, effective from 1 January 2012, the term ‘employers’ will be replaced by ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU) and ‘employees’ will be replaced by ‘workers’.
The model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws have been implemented in all jurisdictions other than Victoria and Western Australia.
In Victoria, workplace health and safety is governed by a system of laws, regulations and compliance codes which set out the responsibilities of employers and workers to ensure that safety is maintained at work.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (the Act) is the cornerstone of legislative and administrative measures to improve occupational health and safety in Victoria.
The Act sets out the key principles, duties and rights in relation to occupational health and safety. The general nature of the duties imposed by the Act means that they cover a very wide variety of circumstances, do not readily date and provide considerable flexibility for a duty holder to determine what needs to be done to comply.
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 are made under the Act. They specify the ways duties imposed by the Act must be performed, or prescribe procedural or administrative matters to support the Act, such as requiring licenses for specific activities, keeping records, or notifying certain matters.
Western Australia Legislation
Safety and health in Western Australian workplaces is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (the OSH Act) and the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (the OSH regulations) supported by codes of practice and guidance notes.
Duty of Officers
The duty of officers is to exercise due diligence to ensure compliance by their bodies. Due diligence means:
- to acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of work health and safety matters;
- to gain an understanding of the nature of the operations of the business or undertaking of the body and generally of the hazards and risks associated with those operations;
- To ensure that the body has available for use, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to enable hazards that are associated with the operations of the business or undertaking of the body to be identified and risk associated with those hazards to be eliminated or minimized;
- to ensure that the body has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazards and risks and responding in a timely way to that information;
- to ensure that the body has, and implements, processes for complying with any duty or obligation of the body under this Act; and
- to verify the provision and use of these resources and processes.
The new laws have increased in penalties for breach of health and safety duties that cause death or serious injuries.The highest penalty under the WHS Act is for a category 1 offence. The maximum penalty is $3 million for a corporation. The highest penalties for individual PCBUs and officers are $600,000 or 5 years jail. Category 1 – most serious breaches, for a duty holder who recklessly endangers a person to risk of death or serious injury.
- Corporation: $3m
- Individual as a PCBU or an officer: $600k / 5 years jail
- Individual e.g. worker: $300k / 5 years jail
Category 2 – failure to comply with a health and safety duty that exposes a person to risk of death, serious injury of illness.
- Corporation: $1.5m
- Individual as a PCBU or an officer: $300k
- Individual e.g. worker: $150k
Category 3 – failure to comply with a health and safety duty.
- Corporation: $500k
- Individual as a PCBU or an officer: $100k
- Individual e.g. worker: $50k.
HSEMA delivers practical workplace health and safety solutions for all types of industries and can assist you to meet your legal and moral obligations to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.