New Work Health and Safety Laws

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Are you ready for the new Work Health and Safety laws?

If not, now is time to make sure you are ready, because on the 1 January 2012, the new harmonised national Work Health and Safety laws will commence. The Queensland Act will be known as the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act 2011).

Company Officers

Under the new Work Health and Safety Act 2011 Company Officers will have new and increased obligations to ensure their businesses are complying. The definition of ‘officer’ includes:

  • Directors, company secretary, partner, officeholder
  • Those involved in making decisions that affect the whole or a substantial part of the business
  • Those with the capacity to affect significantly the organisation’s financial standing
  • Receivers, administrators, liquidators


Under the new laws, officers could be personally liable for up to $600,000 in fines and/or 5 years’ imprisonment if they are deemed to have breached their primary duty of care.

The primary duty of care is to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers at work in the business. The primary duty is broad and provides for:

  • a work environment without risks to health and safety
  • safe plant and structures
  • safe systems of work
  • safe use, handling, storage and transport of plant, structures and substances
  • adequate facilities for the welfare of workers
  • information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect persons from risks to health and safety arising from work
  • monitoring of the health of workers and conditions at the workplace.

A self-employed person must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, his or her own health and safety while at work.

Act Now

Directors and management of businesses throughout Australia are now in a position to influence the occupational health and safety regime of their organisation. It is imperative to address this now so that appropriate procedures are in place come 1 January 2012. It is very important to establish a culture now to ensure safety is taken seriously. Therefore officers will have to exercise a positive duty of care and this will be achieved by conducting on an ongoing basis “due diligence” that will include:

  • gaining an understanding of risks and hazards associated with the operation of their business
  • assessing and  ensuring that there are  appropriate  resources  and processes in place to eliminate or minimise risks
  • timely response to incidents
  • implementation of a process to ensure legal compliance to the WHS Act 2011
  • ensuring that their business complies with its safety obligations
  • keeping up-to-date with all work health and safety matters;

The clock is ticking and you only have 10 weeks to get your business prepared for the new laws. There will be no grace period after commencement. Therefore I urge you to take the time now to assess your situation, understand your Work Health and Safety obligations which will be dependent on your business and industry and make sure that come January 1 2012 you have a new set of Work Health and Safety processes in place and communicated to your people.

Please contact me to discuss any questions or queries you may have regarding the work health and safety laws, or workplace safety in general.

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