New Bill could mean significant Changes to Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld)

We aim to deliver Just, Redemptive Outcomes®

On 7 May 2015, the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (Qld) (“the Bill”) was read for the first time by the Hon. CW Pitt (Mulgrave – ALP) and subsequently referred to the Finance and Administration Committee  (“the Committee”) for consideration[1].

If passed in its current form, the Bill will introduce amendments to both the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (Qld) and the Work Health Safety Act 2011 (Qld).

  1. Purpose of the Bill in relation to the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (Qld)

The Bill’s proposed amendments to the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (Qld) will “re-establish the role of a Commissioner for Electrical Safety and specific committees to promote community awareness about electrical safety (electrical safety education committee) and participate in developing requirements for the electrical safety of electrical equipment (electrical equipment committee).”[2]

  1. Summary of the Bill’s amendments to the Work Health Safety Act 2011 (Qld)

We consider that there are pertinent amendments to the Work Health Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (“the Act”) as follows:

A. Amendment of the definition of “serious injury or illness”

Section 16 of the Bill proposes to amend Section 36 of the Act by expanding the definition of “serious injury or illness” to include an additional requirement “to notify the regulator of an injury or illness causing a person to be absent from the persons voluntary or paid employment for more than four days”. (emphasis added)

As a reminder, section 38 of the Act requires a person conducting a business or undertaking to ensure the Work Health and Safety regulator is “notified immediately after becoming aware that a notifiable incident arising out of the conduct of the business or undertaking has occurred”. A notifiable incident includes “a serious injury or illness”.

Failure to notify the regulator may result in a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units (approximately $11,000.00, indexed accordingly).

B. Health and Safety Representatives (“HSRs”) granted power to direct work to cease in certain circumstances

The proposed amendments restore the HSR’s power to direct work to cease in certain circumstances.

If passed, a HSR may direct a worker in a work group represented by the HSR to “cease work if the representative has a reasonable concern that to carry out the work would expose the worker to a serious risk to the worker’s health or safety, emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard”.

This direction would be subject to various other provisions, such as consultation requirements, the seriousness and immediate or imminent nature of the risk, and the HSR’s completion of training requirements.

C. Notice of Entry

Under Section 119 of the Act, a WHS Entry Permit Holder must give notice of the proposed entry and the suspected contravention to the relevant person conducting a business or undertaking and the person with management or control of the workplace before entering a workplace with suspected contraventions.

The proposed amendments to this Section will require the WHS Entry Permit Holder to give notice of the entry and the suspected contravention to the relevant persons as soon as is reasonably practicable after entering a workplace under this division…”

The proposed amendment allows for no notice requirement if the giving of the notice would “defeat the purpose of the entry to the workplace” or “unreasonably delay the WHS entry permit holder in an urgent case”.

These proposed amendments would not affect the current provisions in relation to inspection of employee records or information held by another person.

  1. What next?

The above-mentioned proposed amendments are still being considered by the Committee.

However, if the Bill is passed in its current form, we consider that for-profits and not-for-profits will have to familiarise themselves, and may need to make amendments to their current policy and procedures accordingly.

If you would like to discuss how these proposed amendments could affect you, or if you have any queries in relation to Work Health and Safety matters in general, please contact one of our Business Development team today on (07) 3252 0011, to meet with one of our experienced Brisbane Lawyers.

 

[1] For further information, refer to the Explanatory Speech of the Hon. CW Pitt (Mulgrave – ALP), available at http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/documents/tableOffice/BillMaterial/150507/Work.pdf.

 

[2] As described in the Explanatory Memorandum of the Bill, available at https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/Bills/55PDF/2015/WorkHealthSafOLAB15E.pdf.