Australia: WHS Bill passed by Queensland parliament will prevent unions from using loopholes to force their way into worksites

Last Updated: 9 April 2014
Article by Melissa Demarco

In brief - Bill passed on 3 April 2014

The Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (Qld) was passed on 3 April 2014 by Queensland parliament, preventing unions from using loopholes to force their way onto worksites to lock workers out or stop unsafe work.

History of unions changing their reason for entering worksite

In our previous article, Union right of entry to workplaces: employers should know their rights, we discussed the issues faced by employers when dealing with right of entry disputes and difficulties relating to union officials entering workplaces without an entry permit or giving notice, to hold discussions with employees but then changing the reason for entry to purported work health and safety complaints involving alleged "immediate or imminent risks to workers".

Health and safety representatives to lose power to direct workers to cease unsafe work

The amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act (Qld) will require WHS entry permit holders to give at least 24 hours' written notice and outline any suspected safety contraventions before entering a workplace.

In addition, maximum fines for entry permit holders who breach the entry provisions will be doubled to more than $20,000 and health and safety representatives will lose the power to direct workers to cease unsafe work, but will be able to issue provisional improvement notices.

Penalties for non-compliance with WHS entry permit conditions to be increased

The following changes to the WHS Act (Qld) will come into effect in the near future. We will keep you informed when this occurs.

  • There will be a requirement for WHS entry permit holders to give at least 24 hours, but no more than 14 days, prior written notice by before they can enter a workplace to inquire into a suspected contravention. This will align with other entry notification periods in the WHS Act (Qld) and the Fair Work Act 2009.
  • Penalties for non-compliance with WHS entry permit conditions will be increased and penalties will be introduced for failure to comply with the entry notification requirements.
  • At least 24 hours, but no more than 14 days, prior written notice will be required before any person assisting a health and safety representative can have access to the workplace.
  • The power of health and safety representatives to direct workers to cease unsafe work will be removed.
  • The requirement under the WHS Act (Qld) for a person conducting a business or undertaking to provide a list of health and safety representatives to the WHS regulator will be removed.
  • Codes of practice adopted in Queensland will be able to be approved, varied or revoked without requiring national consultation as currently required by the WHS Act (Qld).
  • The maximum penalty that can be prescribed for offences in the Electrical Safety Regulation 2013 will be increased to 300 penalty units.

Melissa Demarco
Workplace relations
CBP Lawyers

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