Further changes to Australia’s work health and safety laws on the horizon following independent review

Safe Work Australia has this week released the results of the independent review conducted into Australia’s work health and safety laws (WHS laws), which found that the WHS laws are “largely operating as intended” and provided 34 recommendations to enhance the framework of the WHS laws.

This was the first review of the WHS laws since being initially developed by Safe Work Australia in 2011 as the ‘Model WHS Laws’ and separately implemented by each state and territory as part of the harmonisation of Australia’s WHS laws.

The predominant purpose of the review was to examine how the WHS laws were operating and assess whether the laws were being consistency applied across Australia.

A copy of the ‘Review of the Model Work Health and Safety Laws Final Report’ (WHS Report) can be downloaded here.

The WHS Report (which is divided into seven chapters, spanning across nearly 200 pages) makes the following relevant recommendations:

  • the penalty levels are to be increased in order to reflect increases to the consumer price index and the increased penalties are to be reviewed to ensure that they remain effective and appropriate;
  • the offence of Industrial Manslaughter is to be introduced across each jurisdiction in Australia (noting that QLD and the ACT have already introduced this offence);
  • the model WHS Regulations and model Codes of Practice are to be reviewed against an agreed criterion;
  • the powers of inspectors are to be increased so that inspectors are able to require the production of documents and answers to questions for 30 days after the day that they or another inspector enter the workplace (noting that a similar provision already exists in QLD);
  • Safe Work Australia is to develop criteria in order to assess new industries, hazards and working arrangements in order to identify if there is any further need for legislative change;
  • regulations are to be implemented specifically dealing with psychological health;
  • there are to be new offences introduced in relation to contracts or other arrangements entered into for insurance against the liability of potential fines imposed under the WHS laws; and
  • a template Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is to be implemented into the regulations and Safe Work Australia are to develop an interactive tool in order to assist with the effective and efficient completion of SWMS.

Each of the 34 recommendations will be subject to a regulation impact statement process before the work health and safety ministers respond to the WHS Report later this year.

CDI Lawyers will keep you up to date with any changes to the WHS laws as and when they are announced.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader’s specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed. 

Key contacts:

Jay Hatten – Senior Associate
Christopher Rowden – Principal


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