The recent changes to the Workplace Health & Safety Act legislation in Queensland have increased business’ focus on workplace health and safety. The changes are likely to impact all businesses in Queensland but in particular those businesses that have elected or appointed health and safety representatives We’ve compiled some tips to help you cope with the changes.
Tip One: Watch out for the potential impact of Industrial Manslaughter legislation
Under the latest changes, the organisation and its senior officers can now be subject to a charge of manslaughter, in addition to an offence under the Work Health and Safety Act. A senior officer is determined on the basis of control they have within the organisation, rather than that of a title. The penalties can be up to 20 years in prison for individuals and $10,000,000 for the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) if a worker dies because the conduct (act or omissions) of the organisation’s senior officer/s was negligent.
Our experience shows that most persons in charge of organisations never intentionally wish to harm others at works and certainly as an organisation we generally do not wish intentionally put workers or others (like members of the public) at risk, not knowing or assuming your workers are doing the right things is not a defence to industrial manslaughter.
By having great systems in place to protect workers and members of the public at your business you will mitigate your overall business risk.
We strongly recommend that you always:
- Assess your workplace risks.
- Implement safe systems of work.
- Train, instruct and supervise workers to ensure they comply with the safe systems of work;
- Maintain records to show that you safe working systems actually work;
- Review your workplace health and safety systems to ensure that they’re working. Too often we see people implement great systems but not follow through on their effectiveness.
Tip Two: Make sure that you’re appoint a Work Health and Safety Officer and/or a Health and Safety Representatives and…they’re doing their job
The amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 now allow organisations to appoint a Work Health and Safety Officer. Note that the previous WHSO identified in the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 is no longer. The new Work Health and Safety Officer role is an optional appointment which (where possible) we would strongly recommend to organisations. The appointment of a person in this role may assist as a mitigating factor in the event of an incident.
By appointing and training a Work Health and Safety Officer and an elected Health and Safety representative your will increase probability of managing your safe functions in the workplace. Trained staff can make a huge impact on overall system performance and ensure that systems are delivering what they started out to do. Of course they also can help management drive effective workplace health and safety systems
Other changes to Workplace Health and Safety Officer and Health & Safety Representative requirements incorporate:
- The requirement to provide details of the elected representatives to Work Health and Safety Queensland.
- Communication of the details of the appointments of Health & Safety Officers and representatives to workers in the organisation.
- Implementing approved training for representatives within 6 months of their appointment and refresher training at least every 3 years.
Tip Three: Watch out for your Industry Code of Practice – they’re ingrained in legislation
If you’re in an industry that has an approved Code of Practice you need to make sure that you’re following it. They have continued to have significant power in legislation and compliance with a code of practice could assist to mitigate an incident if one occurs. If you’re a start-up or other type organisation be sure you check out the WHS Qld Website and find out if any applicable codes might apply to your business. By ensuring that Codes are used and referenced when developing and reviewing safe systems of work will help you ensure compliance with the requirements. Changes to the legislation also will force industry bodies to update and review Codes of Practice every five years.
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