Starting January 1, the states WHS Act 2012 took over where the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 left off. This change means that SA has joined NSW, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory in their adoption of the OHS Harmonisation laws.
SafeWork SA acting director Robin Scott reports that the new legislation will basically be aligned with existing requirements resulting in a minimal impact on businesses throughout the state.
Those within the OHS community have been in deep discussion over the passing of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) bill through the South Australian Parliament. Despite the bill reaching the committee stage (and thus requiring a third reading), some speculate that the WHS bill will fail to be enacted into law.
On September 6, Russell Wortley commented “There has been a lot of fear mongering about the effects of these laws. I want to assure honourable members that these fears are misguided and, sadly, often based on misinformation from lobby groups with a particular self-interest in seeing this legislation defeated.”
Wortley believes that not passing the bill will lead to a limited safety infrastructure and limited safety measures between the employer/employee. He stated that not passing the laws would mean that SA workers will have lower safety standards than those in other states throughout AUS.
Wortley stated that many of the Housing Industry Association’s predicted costs of passing the bill include costs for items that are not mandatory under the WHS bill (future or current). Other costs put forth by the HIA are for items or materials that are currently included in safety measures enacted throughout SA and as such should not be considered additional charges.
Wortley believes HIA’s actions as an effort to gain political and media attention instead of an effort to provide a detailed analysis.
Half a year after the Federal Government had hoped that the OHS Harmonisation laws would be implemented, the State Government is gathering public consensus on the costs and benefits.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch stated that harmonised OHS laws would affect all WA workplaces on various levels. Thus the board believes that a consultation process will allow them to consider how the new laws will affect the public.
Six months after the Federal Government had hoped that uniform laws would be in place, the State Government is seeking public comment on the costs and benefits.
In 2010 an Australia-wide consultation process took place however, the current consultation period is meant to specifically gauge how WA workplaces feel about the OHS Harmonisation Laws.
WorkSafe appointed Marsden Jacob Associates as the ones who will conduct the two-month consultation process to gauge the potential pros and cons of the proposed OHS Harmonisation laws to the WA public.
An information campaign will be in operation nd six public forums will also be held in regional WA.
The OHS Harmonisation laws will not affect local football clubs and other organisations that rely solely on the devoted volunteers.Organisations such as Uniting Church and Meals on Wheels are allegedly concerned with the new occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, which are being implemented nationally this year.
Safe Work Australia chair Tom Phillips stated that not all volunteer organisations should be concerned with the new laws since they may not apply to each respective organisation.
According to Phillips, the laws will apply if an organisation employs staff in conjunction with volunteers and where work is carried out on behalf of the organisation.The new laws, Phillips says, will not affect community groups or football clubs which do not have employees.
It is the workplace’s responsibility to ensure the safety of workers – and thus, not the volunteer’s responsibility. Phillips continued by stating that prosecution of volunteers is unlikely to occur except in the most serious and exceptional circumstances.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard claims that the government will be taking a commonsense approach in the implementation of the national occupational health and safety reforms. Gillard stated that volunteer organisations will go out of their way to make sure that volunteers are kept safe.
The ACTU is pushing for workers to take advantage of the new safety laws by adopting safety representatives. The ACTU also stated that the rumour that workplaces can be shut down due to concocted safety claims, is false.
A “Speak Up” campaign has commenced following the implementation of the nationally harmonised occupational health and safety laws( OHS Harmonisation). The campaign was initiated with the intent of ensuring workers understand their rights, which includes their right to elect their own safety representatives.
ACTU assistant secretary Michael Borowick stated that it was unlawful for employers to interfere with the work of health and safety representatives or to hinder their responsibility of representing their workmates.
Borowick stated that it is not compulsory to have a safety representative but the opportunity exists if workers feel the desire to take advantage of that opportunity.Previously, Health and safety representatives had limited powers to dictate directives when workers were endangered.Victoria and WA have yet to come to an agreement regarding the harmonised safety laws; while SA and Tasmania are still discussing the proposal in parliament.