Home - How will the WHS Act independent review affect you? – Part 2

UpdatesMar 15, 2019

How will the WHS Act independent review affect you? – Part 2

Today, we examine the recommendations that were made by the Review and how they could affect your business.

By Michael Selinger

In yesterday’s Health & Safety Bulletin we looked at the background of the WHS Act independent review (Review) and the types of questions that were asked about how current model WHS laws could be improved.

Today, we examine the recommendations that were made by the Review and how they could affect your business.

What were the recommendations?

In total there were 34 recommendations made by the Review ranging from broad recommendations on the role of Safe Work Australia, the interaction between State and Territory regulators and improving the consistency in prosecutorial discretion in enforcement, right down to very detailed recommendations about aligning dates for compliance with notices for production of documents, photo ID on construction industry White Cards and a suggested review of the high-risk work licence classes for cranes.

Increased penalties and industrial manslaughter

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Review recommended the increase in maximum penalties, noting that in harmonised jurisdictions they have not increased with CPI or at all since 2011.

Further, in accordance with the recent public outcry over serious workplace incidents, a recommendation was made that a separate offence for industrial manslaughter be included in the WHS Act. This was coupled with a suggestion that Category 1 offences (being the most serious) should be expanded to pick up ‘grossly negligent’ behaviour in addition to the current element of ‘recklessness’.

Of these recommendations, probably only the increase of maximum fines will be initially adopted by all jurisdictions, as the political debate over separate industrial manslaughter laws continues to rage.

Immediate practical recommendations

A number of the recommendations, if implemented, could have immediate practical consequences for organisations.

These include:

Practical Guidance recommendations

And in terms of practical guidance, the Review recommended that:

Conclusion

The Review will take some time for governments and stakeholders to consider. At this stage, businesses should not expect to see any immediate changes to the law.

However, the Review provides a clear and cogent framework for the implementation of a number of practical changes to the current laws which will require businesses to review their systems and processes. Particular areas will include incident notification, HSRs, right of entry and insurance arrangements.

A full copy of the Review report can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/review-model-whs-laws-final-report.

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