As reported in March this year, an independent review of the harmonised Work Health & Safety (WHS) laws in Australia produced a series of recommendations to assist in delivering clarity, consistency and effective operation and enforcement of the laws (review). Now, Safe Work Australia is seeking public comment on those recommendations.

The Review examined the operation and effectiveness of WHS laws in all jurisdictions in Australia. In total there were 34 recommendations made by the Review ranging from broad recommendations on the role of Safe Work Australia, right down to very detailed recommendations about aligning dates for compliance with notices for production of documents, photo ID on construction industry White Cards and a suggested review of the high risk work licence classes for cranes.

In our earlier article, we noted that there were a number of recommendations that could have, if implemented, immediate practical consequences for organisations. These included:

  • incident notification: recommendation that a notification trigger be included for psychological injuries and the test for ‘serious injury or incident’ or ‘dangerous incident’ (being the kind of injuries that should be notified) should be clarified within the WHS Act
  • removal of right to seek indemnity from insurer: recommendation that duty holders should be outlawed from getting insurance for a penalty in a WHS matter on the basis that it goes against public policy and the purpose of the legislation
  • changing the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) rules: recommendation that there be only one work group for the business; allow the HSR to choose their training course; allow a union representative to assist an HSR on site even if they do not hold an entry permit under the Fair Work Act or other industrial law and, finally, that if an inspector cancels a PIN issued by an HSR, the inspector must deal with the underlying safety issue
  • right of entry without notice: recommendation that the 24 hours’ notice requirement for use of a right of entry permit be removed which would allow an union official to immediately enter a worksite.

Your feedback is needed by 5 August 2019

Safe Work Australia has now issued a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on these recommendations. Submissions are open until 5 August 2019 and can be made online.

Safe Work Australia has stated that it is particularly interested in feedback on the recommendations that may have the greatest impact on workers, business and the community, including:

  • introducing regulations dealing with psychological health
  • new arrangements for health and safety representatives (HSR) and work groups in small businesses
  • clarifying workplace entry of HSR assistants and WHS entry permit holders
  • providing HSRs with choice of training course
  • providing a process for resolving disputes about WHS issues
  • including gross negligence as an element of the Category 1 offence, and
  • introducing an industrial manslaughter offence.

Safe Work Australia has set up a consultation page with information and details on how you can participate.