New OHS laws explained at WA Safety Show

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCIWA) will hold workshops at the WA Safety Show to assist employers meet their obligations under the new occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCIWA) will hold workshops at the WA Safety Show to assist employers meet their obligations under the new occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

The employer group says that despite the WA government’s opposition to some non-core areas in the harmonised Model Work Health and Safety Act, the state’s employers and those running businesses or undertakings face sweeping changes to workplace safety under the new Act.

"Western Australia will adopt the national model legislative package with some minor changes. The provisions in the model Act that are not adopted in WA are not fundamental to improving safety," says CCIWA representative, Anne Bellamy.

The CCIWA will present free daily workshops at the WA Safety Show, which runs from August 24 to 26 2010 at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre.

In daily seminars at the show, OHS lawyer and Norton Rose partner, Maria Saraceni, will explain the legislation due to take effect on January 1, 2012 and says there are only four areas that will distinguish WA’s OHS legislation from the national model Act.

Penalties will be increased but will remain lower than in other states; safety and health representatives will not be able to call a stop-work; union right of entry will be dealt with under industrial law; and the reverse burden of proof in discrimination matters will not be introduced.

"As with the national Model Act, officers in WA will have a positive duty of care to exercise due diligence to ensure that their corporation complies with its statutory obligations. That’s the biggest change that harmonisation will bring in Western Australia," Saraceni says.

"It’s a change of mindset – you’ll need to become pro-active about safety and be able to demonstrate what it is you have done in meeting your new obligations. The next 18 months until the new laws are implemented will be essential to allow you to adopt the new approach necessary to help you meet your obligations."

Saraceni says workplaces will need to reconsider their supervision and consultation standards.

"Conduct a gap analysis to review the processes you have in place, the resources in your budget and contractual arrangements. It’s time to consider new policies for health and, now, specifically psychological health," she said.

The CCIWA’s Anne Bellamy says the Chamber’s workshops at the WA Safety Show will "concentrate on the practical implementation of the new laws. In particular, we will provide information on many of the day to day requirements of the new model Act”.