What is on the Horizon for WHS Laws in 2019?

Over the past year, Safe Work Australia has been completing a review of the Model Work Health and Safety Laws. The Model Law is the foundation of the laws that most states and territories in Australia will use for their WHS acts.  The review is meant to be released in the early months of this year and can be expected to make changes to the Model Law. Below are three main issues that Safe Work will be looking to remedy with changes to the model WHS law, and therefore, are what might be binding for your workplace by the end of the year.

No More Escape!
The big topic considered in this report was the implementation of significantly stricter investigation, prosecution and sentencing for industrial deaths.  Using insurance for fines, investigation costs or defence costs for a breach of the WHS legislation resulting in an industrial death will be no more. Fines may increase, with larger fines for bigger businesses or repeat offenders.
The new Australian laws would reflect current Queensland laws for Industrial Manslaughter. This means that individuals could face 20 years imprisonment and companies could be fined up to $10 million.
These changes will help enforce accountability and reduce workplace deaths.
Clarity on Who is Responsible for Workers

Recommendations have been made to clarify who has the ‘Primary Duty of Care’ for a worker. This applies to labour hire and other employment arrangements where an employee may report to multiple organisations. This will benefit temp or agency workers, as they have been tend to fall through the gaps of WHS safety conditions. It will be able to clarify which organisation has the ultimate responsibility for a workers safety.

Focus on Families
The last recommendations were regarding the way that families of victims are handled in the future. This includes being clear and timely when notifying the families of a loss, as well as keeping families in the know during the investigation process. Families will be able to write about how the incident has affected them and tolls to help with coping will be a focus for impacted families to grieve and find support as the topic of mental health is given more light.
This will be a topic that we will cover throughout the year as updates occur. Keep an eye on this space, and subscribe to our monthly newsletter to ensure you don’t miss any changes that might affect you.

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