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Changes to Work Health and Safety laws in Australia


Posted on August 14th, 2012Safety


Harmonisation of WHS laws in Australia will commence on 1 Jan 2012, making OHS easier for companies operating in multiple states.

The Work Health and Safety Bill 2011 has already passed through the Queensland Parliament and NSW (with amendments).

The QLD requirement for a WHSO for companies with 30+ employees will go. However, the responsibility for the health and safety of their workers rests on the shoulders of company directors and “officers” who will have a positive and proactive duty to exercise “due diligence”. This responsibility exists regardless of the business size.

Directors will need to:

− acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of health and safety matters

− gain an understanding of hazards and risks associated with the company’s operations

− ensure appropriate resources are available for use to eliminate or minimise risks from work carried out

− ensure appropriate processes for obtaining information about incidents, hazards and risks, and responding to them

− ensure processes for complying with duties are implemented, e.g. reporting, consultation arrangements, training and instruction

− verify the provision and use of resources for the matters listed above.

Many companies will elect to keep the WHSO position to assist in the above.

Another important changes is that the definition of “worker” has been broadened and now includes contractors, subcontractors, and volunteers:

“A person is a worker if the person carries out work in any capacity for a PCBU, including work as:

  • an employee
  • a contractor or subcontractor
  • an employee of a contractor or subcontractor
  • an employee of a labour hire company
  • an outworker
  • an apprentice or trainee
  • a student on work experience
  • a volunteer
  • a person of a prescribed class.”

You can find more info on the Harmonisation of WHS laws here: http://www.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/law/harmonisationohslaws/bill/index.htm

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