Qld introduces workplace safety law reforms

Thursday, 07 December, 2023

Qld introduces workplace safety law reforms

The Queensland Government has introduced legislative reforms to the state’s Work Health and Safety Act in the state parliament. The proposed reforms seek to strengthen Queensland’s laws when it comes to protecting the health and safety of workers. The Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill will implement recommendations from the recent independent review of the state’s WHS Act. The Queensland Government accepted, or accepted in principle, all 55 sub-recommendations from the WHS Act Review Report.

This new legislation focuses on recognising the important role of health and safety representatives (HSRs) in improving health and safety for workers. The bill includes provisions to ensure HSRs have the right to choose their own training provider along with proposed improvements to the ability of workers and their representatives to be consulted on WHS matters. It also includes proposed improvements to election processes for HSRs and workgroups, while clarifying and extending the rights of entry permit holders to ensure that they are able to assist workers regarding WHS contraventions. The bill will also extend the most serious Category 1 offence dealing with reckless conduct to also include negligent conduct.

The bill also includes a streamlined dispute resolution process, along with the removal of some proceedings from the Magistrates Court to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the WHS Act Review found that safety performance is improved when there is worker representation in work health and safety matters, adding that the changes will elevate the importance of businesses involving workers and their representatives to identify and resolve work health and safety issues.

“It’s essential that work health and safety issues are resolved quickly so workers and others are not put at risk. These changes to the WHS Act will ensure workers are effectively represented and, if issues cannot be resolved at the workplace, they can be dealt with through a streamlined dispute resolution process,” Grace said.

Grace also announced her intention to commission an independent review of Work Health and Safety Queensland to ensure its activities are contemporary and reflective of community expectations. Initial stakeholder consultation for the review will commence this year, with the review to be completed in early 2024. Jacqueline King, General Secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions, said the new laws will help drive better safety outcomes by focusing employers and workers on preventing the hazards and risks that harm workers and others, including physical and psychosocial hazards.

“These nation-leading reforms are a positive step forward to ensure that Queensland workers’ safety is a key priority in every workplace through stronger consultation and powers and functions for health and safety reps, and a more streamlined process to resolve WHS issues for Queensland employers and workers,” King said.

Image credit: iStock.com/GOCMEN

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