Throughout 2018 there has been a steady increase in enforcement activity taken by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ). The increase in enforcement activity has followed the findings of the Best Practice Review (Review) that was commissioned in 2016 in response to the fatal incidents at Dreamworld and Eagle Farm.
One of the key findings from the Review was that there was a need for an emphasis on 'hard' compliance and enforcement. In this context, businesses must be more proactive than ever to ensure they are taking steps to discharge the obligations under the health and safety regime. It is also fundamental that businesses have a response plan in place to ensure that all required steps are taken in the immediate aftermath of an incident.
Following the Review, the Queensland Government has also passed legislation providing for the introduction of an independent statutory office for work health and safety prosecutions. The statutory office will be led by a WHS Prosecutor appointed by the Governor-in-Council and the current functions of WHSQ to conduct and defend proceedings under the WHSA will transfer to the WHS Prosecutor. Unlike many of the other amendments arising from the Review, this has not yet taken effect. Recruitment for the position of WHS Prosecution is underway and we anticipate this statutory office will commence operations later in 2018.