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The new work health and safety laws: one year on

Release Date

04 March 2013

It has been just over a year since the commencement of the new ‘harmonised’ work health and safety laws (model legislation) in a number of jurisdictions, with 2 more States joining the harmonised jurisdictions on 1 January 2013 this year.
The refusal of Victoria to adopt model legislation has meant Australia will not have national uniformity of the OHS legislative framework nor a nationally consistent approach to compliance and enforcement.

The current status and relevant work health and safety legislation across the Australian jurisdictions is as follows:

Update on Western Australia

Western Australia is expected to introduce new legislation into Parliament in 2013 but this will depend on progress with a corresponding Bill for the mining industry. It is likely that new legislation will commence in or around the beginning of 2014.

Update on Victoria

While originally agreeing to participate in work health and safety harmonisation, Victoria has maintained its subsequent position that it will not be introducing new legislation. The Victorian Treasurer made the following statement as part of his budget speech in 2012:
'The Government will not sign up to the current proposal for harmonised legislation for occupational health and safety, ... It offers little benefit for Victoria to offset the $3.4bn of estimated costs, the majority of which falls on small business. Victoria will continue to work towards best practice legislation.'

What does this mean for your business?

  • Businesses that are yet to review their safety management systems, priority items remain: the identification of your officers, appropriate measures to ensure due diligence is achieved and your officers understand their obligations.
  • Businesses in Victoria that do not operate outside Victoria are unlikely to have a need to make any changes to the way they approach health and safety within their business due to there being no changes to occupational health and safety laws.
  • Businesses operating across multiple Australian states and territories must now contend with the new laws in the states and territories in which they operate (note evolving compliance in Western Australia and South Australia) with Victorian laws to remain the same.
  • Businesses should adopt a best practice approach to work health and safety. Of course the standard of best practice has now shifted in view of the changed laws across the various states and territories and the detailed amendments in relation to officers of businesses and undertakings.

Source: Joe Murphy, Director Workplace Relations, Australian Business Lawyers, has specialised in employment and industrial matters for both private and public sector clients since 2001. http://www.hradvance.com.au/The-new-work-health-and-safety-laws-one-year-on.asp

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