On 7 May 2015, the Queensland Government introduced the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. The Bill was referred to the Finance and Administration Committee for consideration and interested parties are invited to make submissions about any aspect of the Bill by 4 pm on Monday, 5 June 2015 via the Committee's website.
Following on from their election promise in January, the Palaszczuk Government has reversed several of the previous Government's 2014 amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (the Act). One of the major changes is the reversal of the requirement of work health and safety entry permit holders to provide Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) with at least 24 hours written notice before entering a workplace to investigate suspected safety contraventions. This change aims to prevent injuries by providing permit holders with immediate access to workplaces to examine suspected safety breaches.
The Bill also removes the penalty for failing to provide notice of entry to inquire into a suspected contravention of the Act. This means that no notice of entry is required to consult/advise workers or make copies of documents in the event of an investigation.
The maximum penalty for contravening entry permit conditions will also be decreased from 200 penalty units to 100 penalty units.
In addition to restoring the immediate right of entry provisions, further amendments include:
- restoring the right of health and safety representatives to direct workers to cease unsafe work
- amending the current incident notification requirements—employers will be required to notify the regulator when a worker is absent for more than four days due to a workplace injury, and
- re-instating the Electrical Safety Commissioner, Electrical Safety Education Committee and Electrical Equipment Committee.
Implications for employers
The Palaszczuk Government's amendments to the right of entry provisions may result in increased union visitations for PCBU's at their workplaces and potential increased compliance costs, as union members choose when to visit members or potential members in workplaces.
The amendments are likely to see a shift back towards a union friendly industrial relations system in Queensland by bolstering the rights of the employee. If you are concerned about the amendments, submissions may be lodged by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guidelines for making a submission to a parliamentary committee are available on the Committee's website. You can also contact us for more information.
All organisations should consider the potential impact of the proposed amendments on their organisation and take this important opportunity to contribute to the outcome of WHS reform.
We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Dominique Fordyce and Mason Fettell to this article.