Almost seven years has passed since the Commonwealth and all
Australian States and Territories entered into the
Inter-Governmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operation Reform in
Occupational Health and Safety (Harmonisation
Agreement), where each State and Territory agreed to
occupational health and safety laws with a national model
prepared by the Commonwealth.
Western Australia and Victoria have not yet passed legislation
consistent with the Harmonisation Agreement. A timeline of the WA
story is provided below:
3 July 2008
Harmonisation Agreement signed.
WA Government commissioned a consultation regulation impact
statement (RIS) on the Work Health and Safety
(WHS) model regulations and codes of practice,
recommending that amendments to the model WHS laws was advisable
23 October 2014
Minister for Commerce, the Hon Michael Mischin MLC tabled, in WA
Parliament, the Work Health and Safety Bill 2014 green bill
(Green WHS Bill) and announced the opening of a
public comment period.
The WHS Bill contains most core provisions of the model WHS laws
with some modifications to suit WA's working environment.
The Green WHS Bill does not adopt the
following key aspects of the model WHS laws:
Union right of entry with WHS entry permits, as it was
suggested that union right of entry is better covered by industrial
Safety and health representatives' capacity to direct
cessation of work, as it was thought that the decision to refuse to
continue working where there is a serious risk of harm should lie
with the individual worker;
The reverse onus of proof in discrimination matters, as it was
thought that this would be contrary to the purpose of harmonising
the WHS laws.
The Green WHS Bill does elect to
maintain the penalties proposed under the model WHS laws. This
includes a maximum fine of $3 million for a body corporate and up
to $600,000.00 and five years' imprisonment for a person
carrying on a business or undertaking (PCBU) who
is convicted of reckless conduct. This is 600% higher than the
previous penalties for corporations and 240% higher for
30 January 2015
Public comment period closed.
The time for public comment is now over. The Western Australian
government will now review the comments and consider the best form
The feedback from small businesses is that the new legislation
with suffocate them with red tape. This concern stems from the fact
that the majority of small businesses do not have OH&S experts
to assist them. This view itself, however, has been the subject of
controversy, with at least one survey (the June 2012 Sensis
Business Index Sweeney research) suggesting that taxation remains
the main "red tape" threat to small business.
Whilst the model WHS legislation has been developed so that all
workplaces in WA will be covered by the harmonised legislation, the
mining industry will continue to be covered by its own Act and
regulations. The new resources legislation in WA will include some
of the core provisions of the model Mines Work Health and Safety
Act and regulations but also provisions more specific to Western
Australia. In essence, some "non-core" provisions will be
included in order to make the legislation better suited to the WA
In July 2014 the State Government provided approval for the
Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) to begin
development of the Resources Safety Bill which will replace the
Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 (WA). The legislation is
expected to be in place by mid-2016.
One proposed change includes moving regulation of Major Hazard
Facilities from the Dangerous Goods Safety Act 2004 (WA)
to the new Resources Safety Act. This will give the DMP full safety
regulation oversight (currently worker safety is overseen by
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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