The national model Work Health & Safety (WHS) laws have been implemented in every Australian state, other than Western Australia (WA). Victoria has indicated it will not be adopting the harmonised laws any time in the near future.

On 21 October 2020, the Work Health and Safety Bill passed the WA Upper House. It is anticipated to receive royal assent soon after consideration of amendments by the Legislative Assembly in November 2020 and is expected to come into force in 2021.

WHS Harmonisation Law Changes – what are they?

The new bill proposes a single WHS Act that cover all workplaces in WA—including mines, petroleum and other resource operations—with specific regulations for each industry sector.

The new WHS Act for WA is based on the national model WHS legislation, with the aim of replacing:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984
  • Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Safety Levies Act 2011
  • Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994

Significant changes proposed under the WHS Bill include:

  • duty of care obligations imposed on persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) rather than employers
  • PCBU’s must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and other persons. This includes all directly employed and indirectly engaged workers, due diligence obligations placed on WHS service providers and company officers
  • the prohibition of insurance and other indemnity arrangements for the payment of WHS fines between WHS duty holders and insurers, and
  • the introduction of a two-level industrial manslaughter offence.

• Industrial manslaughter – crime, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a $5,000,000 fine for an individual as well as $10,000,000 for a body corporate.

• Industrial manslaughter – simple offence, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $2,500,000 for an individual, as well as a fine of $5,000,000 for a body corporate.

The objectives of harmonising of WHS laws

According to Safe Work Australia: harmonisation of WHS laws was part of the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) National Reform Agenda that aimed to reduce regulatory burden and create a seamless national economy. The formal harmonisation process started with the establishment of the Intergovernmental agreement for regulatory and operational reform in occupational health and safety in July 2008.

The objectives of harmonising WHS laws through a model framework include:

  • Protect the health and safety of workers
  • Improve safety outcomes in workplace
  • Reduce compliance costs for business
  • Improve efficiency for regulatory agencies

What needs to be done?

Western Australian PCBU’s, particularly directors, executives and senior managers, should now take steps to ensure they understand the proposed changes and their obligations under the new laws.

They should ensure they are familiar with the obligations and increased penalties. They should take a proactive approach to reviewing their WHS processes and systems, including worker competency systems and subcontractor safety management systems.

How can Pegasus help?

Pegasus has developed products and services that work in conjunction with your WHS system, policies and procedures. This gives our clients peace of mind that they have met their obligation, ensuring workers have the appropriate skills, training and qualifications to work on their sites.

Pegasus provides contracting company pre-qualificationworker competency and learning management products integrated to ensure contractors meet the standards required to access your site.

We collect, compare and verify contracting company data to your standards to ensure companies are compliant and all workers are competent to perform their roles. Pegasus manages this data on an ongoing basis.

We also offer Safety Management System (SMS) audit services to ensure contract companies meet the legislative requirements to work on your site.

Pegasus Company Pre-Qualification and Worker Competency Management can be integrated with physical access control systems so that only competent workers and valid cardholders are given access to your sites and projects via logpoints, kiosks, boom gates, turnstiles, and mobile apps.

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