November 17, 2020

WHS Legislation: Conversation with an Industry Professional

On the 10th of November 2020, the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Bill was given Royal Assent which means the bill will come into effect in early 2021.

The bill introduces some key changes that are impacting your business, including:

  • The offence of industrial manslaughter now carries maximum penalties of 20 years’ imprisonment and $10 million in fines for corporate bodies. This is a further increase in penalties above those that were introduced in October 2018
  • ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ (PCBU) will replace ‘Employer’ as the primary person responsible for the duty of care
  • Company Officers will have ongoing due diligence obligations
  • Expanded powers for inspectors during investigations
  • A prohibition on individuals and corporations from entering into insurance policies that seek to cover WHS fines imposed under the WHS Act
  • The ability for WHS inspectors to resolve disputes between parties
  • A specific duty of care for persons who provide services relating to WHS which includes occupational hygienists or WHS consultants

With the passing of this bill, we had the opportunity to speak to Paul Everingham, Chief Executive from The Chamber of Minerals & Energy in Western Australia about his thoughts on the new legislation.

 

Having worked in the industry, what challenges and dangers were you exposed to?

Over the years, I have been on many mine sites and many gas facilities.  I have observed different risks on mine sites and at gas facilities.  These industrial projects have a lot of moving parts, with some big machinery and some very complex processing facilities.  However, I take comfort from the fact that on every single mine site and gas facility that I’ve been on in Western Australia, every person working on that site makes safety their number one priority.

 

How do you think the WHS legislative changes in Western Australia will help companies to be more accountable for their actions?

They are changes that the resources sector strongly supports, and they’ll better protect people in their workplaces. The laws will be uniform and simple and will be able to be implemented more easily by each workplace. By being concise and clear in the wording of the legislation there is little room for misinterpretation.  

 

Has there been any negative feedback from industry professionals on the passing of this bill?

Industry supported the passing of this bill.  There was some initial concern around the different types of industrial manslaughter but for the most part, the industry strongly supports this bill.

 

Why has Western Australia been one of the last states to adopt this change?

West Australia has taken a little bit longer to enact this change for a couple of reasons. The first reason was that the Minister (Bill Johnston) wanted to consult very widely with stakeholders, both employers, and employees. We congratulate him on that consultation.  The other reason is that the legislation probably would have been dealt within the first half of this year and probably passed into law before June except that COVID happened and the government had some other urgent legislation to implement beforehand.

 

With these changes expected in early 2021, it’s important to define the steps you should take now to protect your company against the penalties of this new legislative change. Ensure that you and your employees understand the new obligations under the Bill and considering what impact the new laws may have. It’s also important to assess whether the current WHS systems in your workplace remain fit for purpose and address the specific concepts and obligations that feature in the new laws. Define any gaps or compliance issues and work now to reduce the unnecessary risk now before it’s too late.

 

Want to read more about the WHS Legislation? Click here

Need help keeping on top of your obligations? Click here

Are you properly recording incidents and hazards in your workplace? Click here to find way better ways to manage this

Want to know an easy way to track employee compliances? Click here


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