Harmonisation of OHS laws


Work Health and Safety Bill 2014 (Green Bill)

On 23 October 2014, the Minister for Commerce, the Hon Michael Mischin MLC, tabled in Parliament the Work Health and Safety Bill 2014 (WHS Bill) (opens in new window) and announced the opening of a public comment period for this draft legislation. 

The WHS Bill is not a current law of Western Australia, rather it is draft legislation developed for a public comment period. 

The WHS Bill (also referred to as a Green Bill) is a Western Australian version of the model Work Health and Safety Bill (model WHS Bill) developed by Safe Work Australia (opens in new window) for implementation by Australian states and territories.

The WHS Bill contains the core provisions of the model WHS Bill with some modifications to suit the Western Australian working environment. For more details on the changes to the Model WHS Bill, you may wish to view or download a list of the sections (clauses) that have been changed (opens in new window).

Update on Work Health and Safety Laws Consutltation

On 16 December 2015 WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch provided a statement regarding the status of the consultation process and development of the Work Health and safety (WHS) laws. The statement reads as follows: 

“In August 2014, the State Government announced that it intended to craft the best version of the national legislation, adapted and suited to the Western Australian work environment,” Mr McCulloch said.

“The Western Australian version of the model WHS laws (known as “the Green Bill”) was put out for public comment for a period ending earlier this year, and 50 submissions were received.

“The submissions identified areas of potential improvement, so it was decided that some further modifications were required as a result of the feedback process.

“While the Act provides the overarching principles of workplace safety laws, the Regulations provide the more specific details for the various industries and procedures.

“WorkSafe will be undertaking a review of the model WHS Regulations to identify where they can be modified to minimise prescription and reduce red tape, keeping the burden of compliance at an acceptable level.

“The continued development of the laws – and particularly the Regulations – will also involve close consultation with the Department of Mines and Petroleum to ensure compatibility across all WA workplaces.

“Once the review of the Regulations is complete, a public consultation process will take place so all participants in WA workplaces will have the opportunity to have input into the new legal framework.

“After all those processes are completed and any necessary Cabinet approval is obtained, the new laws will be introduced into Parliament for consideration and passage.

“Regulations based on the new laws will not be in effect until the new Act is passed and proclaimed, and any necessary interim Regulations will be introduced only after full consultation and widespread advertising.

“It is important that businesses should not rush into undertaking any training at this stage in anticipation of the new laws.

“Not only is the final form of the new laws not settled, but their implementation will be coupled with transition periods to ensure that everyone involved will be able to adopt the new framework in a seamless manner.

“Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who made a valuable contribution to workplace safety in WA by providing a submission on the WHS Green Bill.”

Background

In 2008 the Council of Australian Governments formally committed to harmonising the occupational safety and health laws in Australia by signing the Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety.

In principle, nationally harmonised OHS laws will provide:

  • A consistent level of safety for all workers in Australia;
  • Reduced compliance and regulatory burdens for businesses operating across State and Territory boundaries;
  • Workers with licences or permits issued by State work health and safety regulators the ability to move easily between jurisdictions; and
  • A larger resource of health and safety information, which will help deliver clear and consistent information to all Australians.

Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act, Model Work Health and Safety Regulations, and Model Codes of Practice

In December 2009 the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Bill was finalised by the then Workplace Relations Ministers Council (now called the Select Council on Workplace Relations (SCWR)).  Subsequently, in November 2011 the model WHS Regulations were finalised by the SCWR.  This provided the platform for the delivery of more consistent laws across Australia. These model laws are generally supported by model Codes of Practice which have also been developed nationally as part of the harmonisation process and are progressivbely being finalised by the SCWR. As at January 2013 every jurisdiction apart from Victoria and Western Australia had introduced the model legislation. The parliamentary process in the jurisdictions which have adopted the model WHS laws have in some instances resulted in modifications to the content of the model laws, however, the primary provisions creating the safety duties have essentially remained unchanged.

At this stage the Victorian Government has stated that it will not adopt the national model workplace health and safety laws in their current form.

 

 


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