WA Proposes Work Health and Safety Bill

Western Australia (WA) has introduced draft legislation designed to harmonise the safety laws of the state with the rest of the country.  This bill, known as the Work Health and Safety Bill 2014, is a version of the Model Work Health and Safety Bill (WHS) developed by Safe Work Australia. It has been implemented by all Australian states and territories to date except for Victoria.  The Work Health and Safety Bill will replace the existing Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1984.

The proposed bill is similar to other versions of the bill adopted in other states.  Commonalities include placing the duty of care on the person conducting business or undertaking (PCBU), while company officers bear the obligation of due diligence.  The bill includes penalties for infractions as well.  Previously, Western Australia has not adopted specific penalties to avoid potentially burdening small businesses.  Lex McCulloch, the WorkSafe WA Commissioner, said WA intended to keep the “core provisions” of the WHS Bill, but adapted and refined it to suit the “best interests of WA businesses.”

Some of the provisions of the core WHS bill did not make it into the WA version.  Those are: Union right of entry – in WA this is provided for under industrial relations legislation already in place; Safety representatives’ direction regarding cessation of work – WA legislators believe this decision should lie with each individual worker in cases where there is risk of serious harm; Reverse onus of proof of discrimination – WA believes including this section is contrary to one of the issues that initiated the process of harmonisation.

McCulloch called for a three month period of public comment.  He strongly urges anyone associated with workplace safety in WA to participate.  Comments are invited until 30 January 2015.

by Stacey Wagner

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