17 August 2014

WA decides its direction on modernising workplace health and safety laws

The Western Australian government has announced that it will modernise WA's workplace health and safety laws rather than adopting the model laws. It will introduce two separate draft bills which incorporate the best elements of the model bills, the national mine safety framework and reflect the recommendations made in the regulatory impact statement.

Two separate draft workplace health and safety bills (WHS bills) based on the model WHS laws will be introduced into parliament. The Resource Safety Bill will cover mine safety and the Workplace Health Safety Bill will cover all other aspects of occupational health and safety in WA.

The WHS bills will incorporate the best elements of the National Mine Safety Framework and the nationally developed model Work Health and Safety legislation. The WHS bills will also reflect the recommendations from the Regulatory Impact Statement process that concluded in 2012. The regulatory impact statement has now been released and is available here: Regulation Impact Statement.

According to Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion, "While there is a clear need to align Western Australian safety regulation with that of other jurisdictions, the state government recognises that what works in other parts of the country may not necessarily apply here."

Mr Marmion said the intention was to place a greater focus on risk management and to be less prescriptive. "The onus will be placed on industry to demonstrate they understand hazards and have control measures in place," he said. The new laws will seek to adopt a best practice risk based approach to safety regulation in Western Australia and realise additional benefits through alignment with other jurisdictions where possible.

One confirmed change relates to the regulation of Major Hazard Facilities. While operational safety of MFIs is presently managed by the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP), worker safety is regulated by WorkSafe. The Resources Safety Bill proposes to consolidate all safety responsibility for MHFs to the DMP.

It is anticipated the following nationalised changes will become law in WA:

  • Directors and officers' due diligence
  • Concept of person conducting a business or undertaking
  • Duty to so far as is reasonably practicable ensure health and safety
  • Updated definition of "reasonably practicable"

The WHS bills will soon be released for consultation for a three month period and it is hoped that the legislation will be in place by mid-2016.

Armed with this increased certainty and detail employers should start considering the potential effects the legislation will have on their business and be ready to make submissions shortly. We can help you review the WHS bills and prepare any submissions and conduct a health check on your business to identify what you need to change in order to be compliant.

Who does this affect?

All businesses with operations in Western Australia.

What do you need to do?

Consider the draft bill and potential impact on your business and, if necessary, make any submissions during the consultation period. You should also conduct a health check as soon as the draft laws are available so you can make the necessary changes in order to be compliant.

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