The new Australian Occupational Health and Safety Harmonisation or OHS Harmonisation laws include a series of changes to the old laws. Breaches of legislation can result in fines in excess of $ 500,000 or even imprisonment for five years for corporate or individual executives.
The changes were officially implemented in January of this year in; NSW,Queensland,The Commonwealth, and the Northern Australia.
Senior Managers and Directors who have a desire to stay clear of penalties (whether it be financial or to their reputation) should be mindful of the following important aspects of the OHS Harmonisation laws.
a) A “Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking” or a PCBU, is the one who is chiefly responsible for upholding OHS standards— this does not necessarily mean the “employer”. An individual or a corporate body can be considered PCBU since they operate a business or duty alone or with other PCBUs.
b) “Duty of care” now includes a more diverse group of individuals including workers and “any other person” whose safety is at risk because of the business activities of the PCBU. Someone is referred to as a worker whether they are employed or a volunteer. This means that incidents that once fell under public liability laws and negligence can now be prosecuted under the new OHS laws.
c) The term “ Officers’ refers to Directors and managers and these individuals are personally obligated to use their best efforts to ensure that the company stays within the boundaries of OHS Harmonisation laws. This is referred to as “Due Dilligence” and includes the following duties:
- Gather and uphold current safety knowledge
- Gain an understanding of the various business risks
- Deliver and implement the proper resources
- Maintain legal compliance with OHS laws.
- Verify compliance and safety standards by conducting frequent and thorough audit and review processes.
Duty Holder(s) (If there indeed more than one) of OHS must ensure that they work together in collaboration and cooperation to ensure that all responsibilities related to OHS legislation are upheld.
The OHS Harmonisation laws recommend that organisations conduct an audit of current processes,safety policies, and contracts. The audit will determine and identify the proper steps needed in order to comply with the new OHS Harmonisation laws. Under these new laws; rules pertaining to personal liability need to be explained clearly to all officers to ensure that breaches are limited.
It is also encouraged to implement due-diligence practices throughout the entire company to ensure that safety measures are upheld.
The Queensland Parliament has approved several aspects of the occupational health and safety harmonisation laws ( OHS harmonisation laws). The Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act was approved albeit with minor changes that would enable it to function in accordance with Queensland jurisdiction. The Work Health and Safety Regulation was approved on November 24,2011. Significant pieces of legislation are as follows:
- Confined Spaces;
- Hazardous Manual Tasks;
- Work Health and Safety Risks;
- Asbestos Awareness in the Workplace
- Asbestos Removal
- Dangerous Chemicals labeling
- Noise Control and Hearing Loss
- Working at Heights safety
The WHS regulations will be implemented on January, 1, 2012. Systems will be put into place in order to help the smooth transition into the new requirements
New South Wales
NSW recently confirmed the January start for WHS act. A training grant of $550 thousand will be offered in ordered to help small business comprehend the new laws.The government is taking steps to ensure that businesses are properly informed about the OHS harmonisation laws, by offering workshops and seminars.
Applications for the training grants must be submitted prior to January 30, 2012.