The Queensland Government has now passed the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (WHS Bill).
The WHS Bill reinstates some right of entry powers that were previously held by work health and safety representatives until their powers were scaled back by the Newman Government in 2014.
The Bill has amended the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) to:
- remove the requirement for permit holders to provide 24 hours’ notice of entry to investigate a suspected contravention of the WHS Act, allowing permit holders to gain immediate access;
- allow training health and safety representatives to direct workers to cease unsafe work;
- remove the penalty for failing to provide notice of entry to inquire into a suspected contravention of the WHS Act (which is a departure from the current national model WHS laws);
- decrease the maximum penalty for contravening WHS entry permit conditions from 200 penalty units (currently $23,560) to 100 penalty units (currently $11,780);
- reinstate the requirement from the repealed Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 for the regulator to be notified of workplace injuries that result in a worker being off work for more than four days; and
- reinstate the Electrical Safety Commissioner, Electrical Safety Education Committee and Electrical Equipment Committee.
The changes represent the implementation of an election commitment from the Palaszczuk Government as part of their Improving Safety for Queenslanders at Work Policy.
However, changes are viewed as a backwards step for some employers and employer groups, who feel that for some time, unions have used safety issues as a mechanism to apply pressure on employers when seeking other industrial agendas.
The amendment to reinstate the Electrical Safety Commissioner, Electrical Safety Education Committee and Electrical Equipment Committee is yet to commence as the Government makes appropriate appointments for these roles.
The other abovementioned amendments are already in force.