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New Occupational Health and Safety Laws in Australia 2012

The new OHS Laws came into effect on the 1st of January 2012 in five of the nine jurisdictions – The Commonwealth, NT, Queensland, NSW and the ACT. The new OHS Laws will not commence in Tasmania until 1 January 2013. South Australia is currently adjourned until 14 February 2012. Victoria and WA have yet to introduce the Act into their parliaments, and have requested a delay in implementing the new laws in their States.

So what does that mean to you and how does that affect you the business owner? Firstly let’s identify who needs to comply with the new laws. The new Act refers to a PCUB (person conducting a business or undertaking). So what or who falls under the classification of PCUB? This could be a company, sole trader, partnership, organisation or a volunteer association (check the Act for a full definition). The primary obligation of a PCUB is to ensure the health and safety of workers and others who might be affected by the activities of the organisation as far as it is reasonable. A PCUB can only meet their legislative obligations if the individuals within the workplace make appropriate contributions to exercise their due diligence. These individuals are referred to as Officers.

Section 27 of the WHS Act accordingly places a duty to exercise due diligence on these individuals, who are described as Officers. This means they are required to take reasonable steps to support a culture of health and safety, accountability, and the allocation of resources and development of appropriate policies. These due diligence requirements enable an Officer to ensure that the PCBU uses and applies appropriate resources, policies, procedures and health and safety practices whilst conducting a business or undertaking. If an Officer fails to exercise due diligence requirements, they can be held personally liable.

Essentially, for the PCUB to comply and for the officer to exercise their Due Diligence, I’d recommend the following 5 steps:

1. Management Commitment

2. Consultation

3. Safe Work Procedures

4. Training and Supervision

5. Reporting Safety

Ensuring these 5 steps are continuously implemented in your workplace should mean you are able breathe easier. It can’t guarantee that an accident/incident will not occur, however it ensures that you have taken all reasonable steps to provide health and safety for workers and others who might be affected by the activities of your organisation, as far as it is reasonable to do so.

Well-structured safety management systems will give you the necessary foundation for compliance, where these 5 steps act as the framework for your OHS System. Most businesses have one or more of these steps in place already, however it might not be within a system as such.

To assess your compliance please click on the link below for the “Compliance at Glance” checklist and find out how you rate. This self-assessment checklist works like traffic lights; Red means Stop and change what you are doing; Orange means Slow Down and see how you can improve, while Green means keep on going – you’re moving in the right direction.

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