Anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by the new health and safety laws need to take a big deep breath and remember that the basic requirements of the Health and Safety laws have always been to manage the risks of your organisation so as not to cause harm to others. This has not changed with the new legislation, so if you were managing your work health and safety well under the previous laws then adapting your system will not be difficult.
Work Health and Safety Act 2011 No 10
Current version for 6 July 2012 to date
Some of the Changes – New Terminology
A Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (“PCBU”) is the term now used instead of an Employer and incorporates but is not limited to Companies, Contractors, Sub-contractors, the Self-Employed and Franchisees.
A Worker is the term now used instead of an Employee. This term covers anyone who carries out work for a PCBU in any capacity, which includes employees and also contractors, labour hire employees, work experience or volunteers.
The obligation to ensure the safety of others being impacted by the activities of the PCBU has not changed. I often hear comments raising concerns that we now have an obligation to look after our volunteers to ensure their safety, however this commitment toward our volunteers or anyone else being impacted by our business remains the same. This misunderstanding may have occurred as some people think the new definition of Worker also impacts on the definition used under the Workplace Injury Management Act, which it has not.
A key part of the OHS Act in New South Wales was consultation, a requirement that is also fundamental to the new legislation, albeit with a wider scope that we were previously used to. We now have an obligation to consult, cooperate and coordinate with other PCBU’s and others that may have a duty in the same matter.
The new role of Health and Safety Representative is not mandatory unless it is requested by a Worker to have such a role. Once requested you have 14 days to commence negotiation in this respect. HS Representatives have new power and functions relating to representing the interests of workers in a workgroup, investigating complaints and monitoring/reviewing risks that might affect the safety of workers they represent.
If the workers do not request for this role and you currently already have a HS Committee duly elected under the previous OHS Act, then this committee follows a similar format. The benefit for the employer is that there is no expensive mandatory training for the committee, so if workers want to get involved in the committee and are supported by their workgroup or peers, the cost of training to have them recognised on the Committee is considerably less.
It is also worth noting that you can also have both a HS Committee and a HS Representative,whose roles are distinctively different.
There is a new requirement in respect of issue resolution procedure, but as you review the requirements it will not take much modification to bring your current resolution up to speed.
Due Diligence of an Officer
The final point to bring to your attention is that the new WHS Act outlines the essential elements of due diligence for an officer of an organisation. This is a helpful guide for the Directors and Officers as defined by ASIC to ensure that the health and safety management system you have is compliant with the requirements of the Act.
While the legislation and terminology of the Health and Safety laws changed in January 2012, our obligation to ensure the safety of our people and anyone who may be impacted by our business has not. If you had a good system in place before the transition to the new system, it will not take too much of your resources to incorporate the new codes of practices and other changes that have come out. Of course, if you don’t have a system then as before you need to look at the steps involved in creating a management system that provides a safe environment starting with policy, consultation, risk management and system review.
To find out where your business is at, a WHS review is always a good step in conjunction with an action plan to map out a path to compliance. For further information please do not hesitate to contact Kristen@alliedrisk.com.au or phone (02) 9635 0477.