Free seminars by Norton Rose law firm partner Aaron Anderson will address the model WHS Act at the Queensland Safety Show organised by Australian Exhibitions & Conferences .
The national model Work Health and Safety Act to be adopted by Australian states towards the end of 2011 will close the loopholes in accountability, according to Mr Anderson.
Significant changes in all jurisdictions will include:
- Moving from employment as basis for duties, obligations and rights
- New positive duty of care for officers, with due diligence defined
- Broadened consultation obligations – vertical and horizontal
- Broadened union right of entry
- Greater protection against discrimination and coercion
- Emphasis on graduated enforcement but higher penalties
- Easier modification of notices
- Changes to powers of questioning and reduced rights of individuals
One of the biggest changes under the new laws will be a shift in emphasis from the employer-employee relationship.
The definition of worker under the legislation is expanded significantly to include contractors, employees of contractors, sub-contractors, labour hire workers, apprentices, volunteers as well as employees.
Senior officers of companies and other organisations will have a more positive, proactive duty of care, beginning with an understanding of hazards and risks.
Mr Anderson explains that due diligence means ensuring the company has appropriate resources and processes to work safely and that they are used.
The new Act obliges the PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) to consult so far as reasonably practicable with all workers in the business of the PCBU and not just direct employees.
According to Mr Anderson, model OHS laws are close to being passed, and contracts are being entered into now that will operate after the commencement of the new laws on 1 January next.
He advises that it's wise to get the strategic, structural and consultation issues resolved first since detailed requirements in regulations will be imposed from the day the uniform Act commences.
Safe Work Australia has released draft model regulations and the public comment period in relation to the draft model regulations ended on 4 April 2011.
Norton Rose recommends preparing for the new WHS Act in 10 steps:
- Undertake a legal risk analysis
- Undertake a gap analysis
- Review, revise and supplement policies and procedures
- Implement – including training and ongoing review
- Review contracts as many will operate under the new laws
- Design and implement interface co-ordination processes and plans
- Develop effective representation and consultation processes
- Develop robust issue resolution processes
- Ensure effective processes for union right of entry
- Review and revise all aspects of corporate governance in WHS to ensure effective management and due diligence compliance
Aaron Anderson's free seminars addressing the model WHS Act form part of a line-up of very practical free manufacturing and workplace safety seminars at the Queensland safety exhibition.
The Queensland Safety Show will run from June 21 to 23, 2011 at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.