Model WHS laws working as intended, review finds

Wednesday, 27 February, 2019

Model WHS laws working as intended, review finds

A recent review of the model WHS laws has revealed that they are currently operating as intended.

Safe Work Australia has made the report from the independent review available on its website.

The report includes 34 recommendations to enhance the WHS framework. Key recommendations relate to the model WHS Regulations and Codes of Practice, including making regulations on psychological health, higher penalties and other measures to strengthen the compliance and enforcement framework and enhance deterrence, and clarifying requirements for meaningful WHS consultation, representation and participation to improve safety outcomes.

“I commend the review report to WHS ministers for their consideration. On behalf of Safe Work Australia, I extend my thanks to Marie Boland for undertaking this important work and engaging widely with the community to understand how the model WHS laws are working in practice,” said Safe Work Australia Chair Diane Smith-Gander.

“Safe Work Australia is committed to ensuring the model WHS laws are as effective as possible to keep Australian workers healthy and safe and will continue to conduct regular reviews.”

One key recommendation in the report suggests that the model WHS Act be amended to provide for a new offence of industrial manslaughter. It states that the offence should provide for gross negligence causing death and include the following:

  • The offence can be committed by a PCBU and an officer as defined under s4 of the model WHS Act.
  • The conduct engaged in on behalf of a body corporate is taken to be conduct engaged in by the body corporate.
  • A body corporate’s conduct includes the conduct of the body corporate when viewed as a whole by aggregating the conduct of its employees, agents or officers.
  • The offence covers the death of an individual to whom a duty is owed.

In addition, it has been recommended that cross-border information sharing be enabled between regulators, so that various jurisdictions can better perform in accordance with the model WHS laws.

The report also recommends a consistent approach to sentencing, greater clarification of the risk management process in the model WHS Act, and improving the quality of asbestos registers to ensure they are created by a competent person

The review report is with WHS ministers for consideration.

More information about the review, including the consultation summary, can be found on the Safe Work Australia website.

Image credit: © Popov

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