A safe workplace environment is the obligation of every business owner, and one way to stay on top of requirements is by knowing the ins and outs of health and safety legislation. In March 2022, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety in Western Australia launched new Work Health and Safety (WHS) regulations for the state.
The new Work Health and Safety Act 2020, also known as the WHS Act, replaces previous occupational safety and health laws and other regulations governing the mining and petroleum industries. This act unites all workplaces throughout the state under a single Act.
Central to the WHS Act is clarity regarding the definition of a PCBU, or a “person conducting a business or undertaking”. PCBUs can include sole traders, involved parties within a partnership, companies, unincorporated associations, or government departments.
The WHS Act also clarifies the duty of care a PCBU holds. The previous OSH Act stressed that duty of care was primarily centred on the relationship between employers and employees. The WHS Act dictates all PCBUs hold primary duty of care to ensure their workers and any other impacted parties are kept safe and healthy while on site. If you are a PCBU, you must do what you can to reduce and eliminate risks that can compromise health and safety. This involves being attentive to the decisions that need to be made in carrying out business.
Under the new Act, a new offence of industrial manslaughter has been presented. This offence carries significant penalties and consequences for PCBUs operating a business where a person dies because of WHS issues, and in instances in which the PCBU was aware of the potential risks. Insurance coverage for WHS penalties has also been voided by the Act, and there are now penalties in place for obtaining this insurance.
The Act also outlines “enforceable undertakings”, which might apply if a business’ operation leads to an offence against WHS laws. By acknowledging an enforceable undertaking, the business may prevent legal proceedings. This is not an admission of guilt; rather, it’s a written agreement to carry out and complete certain tasks within a particular time frame. This agreement is at the discretion of the Regulator to accept or reject.
Businesses are further required to report “notifiable incidents”, such as significant illness, injury, death, and dangerous incidents that may arise during the course of business.
Regulated laws nationwide
As these new laws are inspired by the national WHS Act and requirements of other states and territories, businesses across Australia will largely enjoy similar WHS requirements.
Time for change
Most businesses will need some time to enforce these changes. The WHS Act provides the necessary support businesses need with transitional arrangements. These can be implemented in cases where new duties or requirements have arisen, or when they’ve changed significantly. At the same time, the state government has provided funding for additional inspectors and support staff to encourage better outcomes.
Get in touch with our product specialists to discover how Altora’s platform can help you stay on top of compliance and keep records up to date.