An employment lawyer has warned that managers at the forefront could potentially be at risk of prosecution for Work Health and Safety (WHS) breaches if the OHS Harmonisation laws commence on January 1, 2012.
The OHS Harmonisation laws will comprise of broader meanings of ‘officer’ responsible for workplace safety. Harsher penalties will apply if an officer fails to comply.
Lisa Berton, a partner for Kem Strang, stated that as a result of the new WHS laws; employers will have to recognize an ‘officer’ within an organization, and make compliance a top priority. Berton, warned that the broader definition of an ‘officer’ potentially means that more employees could be held responsible for workplace safety.
Kemp Strang also recommended that businesses identify who the officers are before training is provided to accountable people under the legislation.
The OHS Harmonisation laws include new definitions of due diligence. This means that officers will have to have updated knowledge of WHS matters, understand dangers and risks of the business and minimise or eradicate them, as well as having a proper system in which information can be received and permit a timely response to incidents.
Berton warned that officers must avoid complacency in ensuring that all due diligence requirements are complied with.
Penalties for breaching officer’s duty can result in a fine of $600,000 and/or five years incarceration.
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