ACT revamps work safety law

Thursday, 21 August, 2008

The ACT government has moved to improve safety at work with the introduction of the Work Safety Bill 2008.

Minister for Industrial Relations Andrew Barr said the Bill replaces the current law which is almost 20 years old.

“While the existing law has served ACT workers quite well, it now needs to be updated to keep up with the change in Canberra’s workplaces over two decades," he said.

Key aspects of the Work Safety Bill 2008 include:

  • granting workers a specific right to refuse work where they reasonably believe there is a significant risk to their health or safety;
  • ensuring all employers consult on safety matters with workers, based on a growing body of international evidence which shows that worker participation improves decision making about work safety matters. The Bill also provides choice and flexibility regarding how consultation occurs;
  • extending coverage to all people who have a worker-like relationship, such as employees, independent contractors, outworkers, apprentices, trainees and volunteers who work in employment-like settings. Visitors to the workplace will also be covered; and
  • providing for the reasonable exchange of information obtained by inspectors with other law enforcement agencies for the purpose of ensuring worker or public safety.

“While the Bill provides greater safety for workers, we have consulted widely with the business community over three years to develop legislation that will not hamper business,” Barr said.

“That consultation has included the 2005 review by the Occupational Health and Safety Council of the current law and the release for comment of an exposure draft of the Bill in June this year.

“This legislation provides important protection for workers in the ACT. The Bill balances the interests of workers and business operators and provides a measured approach to work safety to suit workplaces in the 21st century,” he said.


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