In 2009 Safe Work Australia, a national statutory body was given the job of nationalising state occupational health and safety laws. This was designed to harmonize the laws across the various jurisdictions.
On 1 July 2012, the Work Health & Safety Act (NSW) 2011 (WHS Act) commenced operation replacing the Occupation Health & Safety Act (NSW) 2000. The NSW legislation, although not identical, is very similar to the legislation across the various States in Australia.
The reason for the changes has been the change in the workforce. Over the years workplaces have become far less structured. It is becoming far more common for people to do their work from home, be employed by labour hire companies, use contractors, sub-contractors as well as volunteers. These changes to the workforce are reflected in the changes to the legislation and it attempts to encompass all workers as more broadly defined.
For NSW employers, there has been a shift away from an ‘absolute duty’ towards a duty to ensure safety ‘insofar as it is reasonably practicable’. Having said that it also requires employers to be more proactive in respect to the safety measures they implement and their obligations are far broader.
What is ‘reasonably practicable’ depends on a number of factors which include the time and expense it takes to eliminate or reduce the risk. If the steps required are disproportionate to the risk, then they may not be reasonably practicable.
The WHS Act also requires an ‘officer’ of the business to exercise due diligence to ensure the person conducting the business complies with its duties. To exercise due diligence requires positive action which is to say it cannot be passive or disinterested in its obligations.
There is also a raft of regulations that have been introduced to place further obligations on employers and require them to, in effect, self regulate themselves. This includes the introduction of health and safety representatives which will be discussed in a later advertorial.
If you should have any queries in respect to the Work Health & Safety Act, please contact the writer to discuss because Helping You is Our Business.
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