NSW passes Model Work Health and Safety Act legislation

The New South Wales Government will introduce Model Work Health and Safety Act legislation immediately, in an effort to roll-out OHS harmonisation across Australian workplaces.

The move fulfills a promise made by the NSW Government during its campaign pitch in March.

The Australian Industry Group condones the decision, claiming the industry has been looking forward to the move for years.

"Industry has patiently but eagerly awaited the time when all Governments could agree on a consistent form for Australia’s workplace safety laws,” said Ai Group NSW Director, Mark Goodsell.

“The model has been developed, but it requires each State to formally pass it. This decisive move by the new NSW Government is the start of this process, which will hopefully be complete by January 2012 in time for the scheduled start of a harmonised system.

"Ai Group strongly welcomes the announcement.”

There are currently nine different OHS regimes across Australia, which can prove tricky for manufacturers with sites in various states.

Now it is up to each state government to pass the new Model Act. Currently, Western Australia is the only state against the harmonisation, and NSW is the only state to pass legislation related to the Act.

 "The Model Act is innovative and balanced. It combines fair standards of legal responsibility with strong penalties for those who think good safety is optional,” said Goodsell.

“It also provides individual workers with the tools to have an effective say in safety at their workplace. Most of the provisions have operated in some form in at least one state in the past, so there is not a lot that is new to safety. However, the promise that the same standards are now available to be picked up in every state, starting with NSW, means that industry would no longer be diverted by conflicting rules and mixed messages about what is important in workplace safety. This sense of focus is by far the most important outcome from harmonisation.”

The model Act is the product of over two years of review and analysis by industry, unions and safety regulators across the country, so this news of new legislation will come as no surprise to industry members.

Draft model Regulations to underpin the model Act have been subject to a public comment period and are now being reviewed by the same parties through Safe Work Australia.

"Ai Group strongly urges all other states to follow the leadership of NSW and adopt the model Act," said Goodsell.

In the two years leading up to NSW passing the Model Act, industry groups have been debating whether a single national set of OHS laws will be beneficial for workers.

NSW unions have damned the decision because it will remove their power to prosecute employers for OHS breaches. It will also remove the onus of proof from the employer.

Image courtesy of Dailytelegraph.com.au