Business owners are responsible for keeping up to date with work health and safety legislation changes and are required to provide a safe and healthy workplace.
From 31 March 2022, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety has modernised and implemented new Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws for Western Australia, improving protections for all Western Australian workers.
The new laws:
We have listed some things that you need to know as a business owner about the new work, health and safety laws and how they could impact your business.
The new WHS laws have replaced the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA) (OSH Act).
The previous OSH Act has been around for decades and has been supported by other legislation around specific health and safety measures related to mines and petroleum. The change to move to the new WHS Act brings all WA workplaces under a single WHS Act.
The new WHS Act introduces PCBU’s. Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) is the term given to a person conducting a business or undertaking alone or with others, whether or not for profit or gain. A PCBU can be:
If you’re a business owner, you could be a PCBU as an individual. If you run your business as part of a business partnership, you could each be individually and collectively a PCBU. Larger corporations and organisations will have what’s known as officers of the PCBU.
You are not considered a PCBU if you are:
Under the WHS Act, all PCBUs have a primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their workers and others who may be affected by the carrying out of work. In this context, ‘workers’ are those engaged, or caused to be engaged by the person and those whose activities in carrying out the work are influenced or directed by the person.
This primary duty of care requires PCBU’s to ensure health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable, by eliminating risks to health and safety. If this is not reasonably practicable, risks must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes paying attention to the strategic, structural, policy and key resourcing decisions involved in running your business.
Under the primary duty of care, a PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable:
The WHS Act includes a new offence of industrial manslaughter (s30A). This offence involves substantial penalties for PCBU’s in a business where a WHS duty causes the death of an individual, in circumstances where the PCBU knew the conduct could cause death or serious harm.
The WHS Act voids insurance coverage for WHS penalties and imposes penalties for providing or purchasing this insurance.
The new laws also introduce what are known as enforceable undertakings. Here’s an example of how an enforceable undertaking might work:
As part of the new laws, there are also reporting requirements for what are known as ‘notifiable incidents’, which includes serious illness, injury or death and dangerous incidents which might happen during the conduct of a business or undertaking.
Many businesses will need a bit of time to adapt to the changes. The WA Government has allocated funding for an extra 21 inspectors and six support staff to help improve WHS outcomes.
To help support business owners in transitioning to the new Act, transitional arrangements apply where duties are new, or have changed a lot from what they were.
DMIRS WA – http://www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/WHS
DMIRS WA Webinar Recording – WHS laws information update – general
Work Health and Safety Act 2020 – download
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