Posted on April 20, 2011 by
New National Health and Safety Laws – fast approaching
With the public submissions phase of the draft Workplace Health and Safety Regulations and Model Codes of Practice closing on 4 April 2011, we are now entering the final phase of the national health and safety laws harmonisation process.
One State has already introduced their Work Place Health and Safety Bill 2011 into Parliament.
It is anticipated that additional Model Codes of Practice will be released in a second stage shortly, including:
- First Aid
- Safe design of buildings and structures
- Traffic management
These will accompany the 12 priority Model Codes of Practice released in draft in December 2010.
It is anticipated that new Workplace Health and Safety (H&S) laws will commence in NSW on 1 January 2012.
Each jurisdiction currently has its own H&S laws. This leads to inconsistent H&S protection and approaches across Australia.
Under a COAG Intergovernmental Agreement in July 2008, the Commonwealth, States and Territories agreed to harmonise H&S laws.
The harmonisation of H&S laws includes a new Act, Regulations and Model Codes of Practice which will govern H&S across Australia.
Each State and Territory will pass mirror laws, subject to minor jurisdictional variations.
Model Workplace Health and Safety laws
Following a national review, a draft Model Workplace Health and Safety Bill was released in September 2009. This draft underwent extensive public consultation.
A final Model Workplace Health and Safety Bill was released on 26 November 2010.
Thereafter draft Model Workplace Health and Safety Regulations and 12 priority Model Codes of Practice were released for public consultation in December 2010.
The public consultation period for these documents closed on 4 April 2011.
It is anticipated that each State and Territory will enact laws that reflect these Model Workplace H&S laws by the end of December 2011, with commencement on 1 January 2012.
Each State and Territory will have its own regulator to administer these new laws, for example, the WorkCover Authority in NSW.
The Model Workplace H&S laws introduce new H&S definitions, principles and duties, including:
- A primary duty of care;
- Duties of officers; and
- Duties on workers.
These new laws also include significant increases in penalties, including a maximum penalty of $3 million for a body corporate.
The Model Workplace H&S laws include certain exemptions for elected members of a “local authority”. Although this term is presently undefined, we anticipate that a “local authority” will include a local council.
Councils are likely to already be reviewing their H&S management systems ahead of the commencement of these new Model Workplace H&S laws.
Relevant issues to consider during internal review may include:
- H&S policies, procedures, systems, training, risk assessments, safe work method statements, emergency plans, personal protective equipment, first aid and manuals and field folders;
- Relevant Model Codes of Practice (which aim to provide practical guidance to duty holders on how to meet their requirements, and will be admissible in court proceedings); and
- Standard contractual terms.