What the model Work Health and Safety Act means for employers

Large shifts under the new national model Work Health and Safety Act demand immediate action from employers, prominent OHS lawyer Michael Tooma will tell The Safety Conference, which runs concurrently with The Safety Show Sydney.

LARGE shifts under the new national model Work Health and Safety Act demand immediate action from employers, prominent OHS lawyer Michael Tooma will tell The Safety Conference, which runs concurrently with The Safety Show Sydney.

The Norton Rose part ner will warn delegates at the Safety Institute’s 26 to 28 October confer ence that company offi cers will be expected to “do much more and take responsibility for all sorts of things they’ve never had to before” when the laws are adopted on 1 January 2012.

Tooma regards the positive, proactive duty of care on senior offi cers of companies and other organisations as one of the most signifi cant reforms of the model WHS Act. Current laws make offi cers liable for their companies’ conduct rather than being allo cated a duty in their own right.

Under the new laws, officers must exercise due diligence to ensure corporate compliance. “Achieving due dili gence is no simple thing: you have to show you’ve met a whole set of criteria,” Tooma says.

To begin with, Tooma says the need to acquire and maintain current knowledge of work health and safety mat ters mandates regular briefings on develop ments in safety.

Due diligence also requires an understand ing of the nature of the operations of the busi ness or undertaking of the body. “Long gone are the days of sticking your head in the sand,” he says.

“You’ll be expected to understand the haz ards and risks within those operations. Due diligence means ensur ing the company has appropriate resources and processes available to work safely. It means ensuring the company uses those resources and processes and has appropriate processes for receiving and con sidering information regarding incidents, hazards and risks and responding in a timely way to that information.

It also means verify ing the implementation of those processes through regular audits and verifying legal compliance.

“These are the quin tessential features of safety leadership. These are the components of a due diligence system in operation. And from 1 January 2012, this is the law.”

Michael Tooma, a partner at the law firm Norton Rose, will be among 70 speakers at The Safety Conference presented by the Safety Institute of Australia.

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