New National OHS laws are being introduced that will “Harmonise” occupational health and safety across Australia.
The National Harmonisation of the OHS laws has been developed to bring all states into alignment, reduce red tape and make it easy for employers to comply with Work Place Health and Safety Laws.
It effects all employers, workers, volunteers, and anyone carrying out an undertaking for a business or charity. The acronym being used is PCBU which stands for “person conducting a business or undertaking”. This is a very broad term and effects more people than the current state legislations.
Essentially, workplace safety won’t be radically different. There are changes coming for high risk activities, such as working at heights, confined spaces etc… and some states will have more changes than others.
WorkSafe Australia is changing the common term for Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) to Workplace Health and Safety (WHS).
1. What are the model work health and safety laws?
Safe Work Australia is developing model work health and safety laws as part of an initiative of the Council of Australian Governments. This initiative demonstrates the commitment of the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to improving work health and safety for all Australians.
2. Why do we need model work health and safety laws?
The Commonwealth and each state and territory government have agreed to harmonise their work health and safety laws, including Regulations and Codes of Practice, so that they are similar in each jurisdiction.
The Commonwealth, states and territories are responsible for making and enforcing their own work health and safety laws. Although there are many similarities between the laws there are also some differences that can cause confusion. Australian workers should be entitled to the same work health and safety standards, regardless of the jurisdiction in which they operate.
This regulatory inconsistency is being addressed through an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) where, for the first time, governments from each state and territory and the Commonwealth have formally committed to the harmonisation of work health and safety laws. The intention is to harmonise these laws (including the Regulations and Codes of Practice that underpin them) to deliver the same work health and safety protections to all Australians.
3. How will work health and safety laws be harmonised?
Each jurisdiction will go through the process of enacting legislation. The intention is to have mirror laws enacted in each jurisdiction. Minor but necessary variations may be made consistent with relevant drafting protocols and to achieve consistency with other laws and processes operating within a jurisdiction.
4. When will the changes come into effect?
The Commonwealth and each state and territory will be required to enact laws that reflect the model work health and safety laws by the end of December 2011. It is expected that all laws will commence on 1 January 2012.
Model Codes of Practice will be developed and implemented at the same time as the model WHS Regulations. However, development and implementation of further model Codes of Practice will continue beyond December 2011.
5. How was the model WHS Act developed?
The model WHS Act is the result of a comprehensive national review into work health and safety laws across Australia, which involved substantial public consultation.
The first draft of the model WHS Act was based on the decisions of the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council (WRMC) in relation to the national review findings. Many of WRMC’s decisions are published here.
The first draft of the model WHS Act was released for public comment for six weeks in September 2009. The 480 submissions received during this period informed many of the amendments to the first draft. The amended draft was endorsed by WRMC in December 2009.
6. Is the current version of the model WHS Act the final version?
WRMC authorised Safe Work Australia to make final technical and drafting amendments to ensure that the model WHS Act operates as intended. The final version of the model WHS Act was published by Safe Work Australia on 26 November 2010. Model Work Health and Safety Act 26 November 2010
7. What transitional arrangements will be put in place?
Appropriate transitional arrangements will be put in place in each jurisdiction.
All jurisdictions have agreed to a set of principles which will ensure that transitional arrangements are consistent across Australia, although some variations are inevitable as each jurisdiction will be transitioning from a different work health and safety system.
8. Will there be a national regulator?
No, the Commonwealth and each state and territory will continue to have its own regulator to administer the laws in their jurisdiction.
9. Will the model WHS Regulations and model Codes of Practice also be harmonised?
Yes, the intention is for all work health and safety laws, Regulations, Codes of Practice and guidance material to be harmonised across Australia.
10. Who is co-ordinating the project?
Safe Work Australia is an independent statutory body established on 1 November 2009, under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008. Its primary function is to progress the model work health and safety laws in partnership with state and territory governments, employers and workers, who are represented as Safe Work Australia Members.
11. How do I get copies of the documents?
The documents are available to download from the public comment page.
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