October 23, 2018

Your Guide to WHS Harmonisation Laws: Here’s how you can Prepare for the Changes

What is Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) Harmonisation?
Up until now in Australia, different states have abided by different sets of Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws. The changes to WHS laws in Australia and particularly WHS harmonisation in Western Australia, is designed to provide all states and territories with a consistent set of WHS laws to ‘provide for a balanced and nationally consistent framework to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces’.
These changes will influence the day-to-day operations in how occupational health and safety (OHS) is practiced and managed as well as how incidents are reported. It will also ensure that health, safety, environment and quality (HSEQ) management as a whole will be simplified, to ensure greater compliance in your workplace.

What are the changes?

Figures of work-related fatalities differ between state jurisdictions and are due to legislative inconsistencies, prompting the amalgamation of a nation-wide uniform adoption of WHS laws. For example, in South Australia, injuries sustained on the journey between home and work can be classified as a workplace-related injury or fatality; whereas WA legislation explicitly states that injuries sustained during the commute are not considered as workplace incidents. Another noteworthy point is that reported workplace fatalities don’t include incidents of self-inflicted fatalities, irrespective of the industry or type of work.
Some of the areas of change the WHS Act (WA) will address are:
  • Increased penalties
  • Due diligence for officers
  • Enforceable undertakings
  • Right of entry for WHS matters
  • Search warrants/injunctions
How can I prepare for these changes?
Employers in WA and others likely to be affected by these changes should consider any issues of importance to their business, particularly those relating to industry-specific regulation, carefully. They also need to ensure that these are addressed through their relevant industry bodies, or directly by the business, as part of the consultation process.
Consideration should also be given to the manner in which directors and senior managers can prepare for the introduction of the model WHS legislation in WA. Due diligence obligations already apply to directors and senior managers in other jurisdictions, and it is likely that the WA Bill will impose very similar obligations. Directors and senior managers should ensure that they are familiar with these obligations and that the business is equipped to assist them in meeting them.
While there is still some time before the model WHS laws are introduced in WA, directors and senior managers should take steps now to ensure they are familiar with their personal obligations under the new laws, and that they receive the appropriate level of support from their business.

Where can I get more information?

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