Harmonisation of WHS Laws in Australia

New Work Health and Safety Laws were introduced in 2012 in many states in Australia in a bid to harmonise OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) laws in the country. The Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) provides a framework that lays out the health, safety, and welfare of workers rules and regulations at the work place. WHS Act also protects the health and safety of all the people who might be adversely affected at the work place. The Act protects all workers irrespective of their occupation. This includes all employees, contractors, subcontractors, apprentices, outworkers, trainees, volunteers, work experience students and other workers as they perform their work. The WHS act also offers protection for the general public and ensures that their health and safety is not compromised by work activities.

There are a number of tools that can be used in the workplace to help a PCBU make sure they have met their obligations as an employer. For example, any high risk construction work will require the use of safe work method statements to be included as part of your WHS Risk Management Plan. A high quality safe work method statement template is a good way to save time rather than creating one completely yourself. There are a number of companies online that can provide a large range of safety statements and safety procedures and templates.

According to WHS Act, the responsibility of ensuring that the workers’ health and safety is observed falls primarily on the person conducting business or undertaking (PBCU), who must make sure, so far as is practicable, that their health and safety is not placed at risk by their work activities. The responsibility also falls on PCBU officers and other persons at the workplace.

The WHS Act sets out the following requirements:

  • Incident notification
  • Proper consultation with the workers
  • Issue resolution
  • Defines powers and functions of inspectors
  • Prescribe different penalties for non-compliance with the WHS Act.

Codes of Practice

WHS code of practice provides guidance that helps different parties that are affected by the Act to achieve the standards required, as well as advise them on effective risk management methods. The code applies to all the parties that are described in the code. Following the approved code in most cases results in compliance with the health and safety rules. The code though does not cover all the risks and hazards that may arise. The code, therefore, requires the parties to consider all possible risks and not just those laid out by the code.

To effectively identify all the possible risks that can arise in the work place, employees should have a WHS (Work, Health and Safety) management system. A WHS management system is a framework that is used to address the health and safety of workers in an organisation and includes tools such as Site Safety Plans, Risk Assessments, a Risk Management Plan and if you’re involved in high risk construction work it may be beneficial to buy a SWMS template.

If you had previously fully implemented an OHS management system in your company, chances are that you are mostly compliant with the new WHS Act. People undertaking high risk construction work are required by OHS to sign the Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS). A SWMS helps the person to identify and control health and safety risks during the construction process. This requirement still remains.

You, however, need to look at the amendments that were enacted recently to see if they affect you and your workers in any way. A website you may want to visit for other safety procedures available is www.bluesafesolutions.com.au