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Safety Law Changes

On 12 October 2017, the Queensland Parliament passed the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (the amendment Act). Operation of the amendment Act commenced on 1 July 2018.

The amendment Act amends a number of other Acts, particularly the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act),  to implement key recommendations of the Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

With the introduction of the amendment Act we see safety law changes such as:-

  1. the introduction of a new offence of industrial manslaughter which now makes it an offence for a person conducting a business, or a senior officer, to negligently cause the death of a worker. The offence will apply if:
  • a worker dies, or is injured and later dies, in the course of carrying out work for the business or undertaking (including during a work break); and
  • the business’, or senior officer’s, conduct cause the death of the worker (i.e. the action or inaction of the business, or senior officer, substantially contributes to the death); and
  • the business, or senior officer, is negligent about causing the death of the worker (i.e. the persona’s action or inaction departs so far from the standard of care required)

Where a business, or senior officer, commits industrial manslaughter, a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for an individual, or $10M for a body corporate, applies.

  1. the requirement for a person conducting a business to provide the regulator with a list of Health and Safety   Representatives and deputy Health and Safety Representatives for each work group;
  2. prohibiting enforceable undertakings being accepted for contraventions, or alleged contraventions, of the WHS Act that involve a fatality;
  3. providing that codes of practice will expire five years after they are approved to allow for more timely review of codes.

Other key provisions will include:-

  1. requiring the safety measures in a code to be followed unless equal to or better than measures can be demonstrated. Under these changes the Codes of Practice will operate as a minimum standard. Codes of Practice should be used as a guide as they do not have the details required to ensure compliance. They do however provide clear enforcement actions by inspectors where a minimum standard has failed to be reached;
  2. mandating training for Health and Safety Representatives (HRS) within six months of being elected to the role, with refresher training to be undertaken at three-yearly intervals;
  3. introducing the ability for a business to appoint a Work Health and Safety Officer (WHSO);
  4. requiring a business to display a current list of WHSOs for the workplace;
  5. enabling the appointment of a WHSO or the election of a HSR to be permissible as evidence that a business has taken action to mitigate health and safety risks;
  6. clarifying inspector investigation powers under section 171 of the WHS Act to ensure these powers are not inappropriately limited by a legal technicality.

There will be an expansion of the jurisdiction of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) to hear and determine disputes relating to work health and safety issues, cease work matters, requests for assistance by Health and Safety Representatives, and the provision of information to Health and Safety Representatives. Disputes will not be able to be lodged with the QIRC until 24 hours after an inspector has been requested to assist with resolving a dispute and the dispute remains unresolved.

There will be established an independent statutory office for work health and safety prosecutions. The statutory office will be headed by a WHS Prosecutor appointed by the Governor-in-Council for a five year renewable term.

It is now more important than ever for businesses to be vigilant about workplace safety with the recent safety law changes.

McNamara Law are able to assist with workplace health and safety investigations, or provide recommendations on how you can comply with your work, health and safety obligations. For further information, contact one of our employment lawyers on 1300 258 888.

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