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Select Committee Report on the Health and Safety Reform Bill

Home Insights Select Committee Report on the Health and Safety Reform Bill

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Contributed by: Kylie Dunn and Adrian Olney

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Published on: July 24, 2015

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Select Committee Report on the Health and Safety Reform Bill

As you may have seen from media reports, the Select Committee Report on the Health and Safety Reform Bill was released this afternoon. Despite being more than a year in the making, there is little fundamental change from the first reading, which was released in March 2014.

In brief, the key changes from the First Reading are:

  • Definition of “officer” narrowed – “Officer” is now confined to people who “exercise significant influence over the management of the business or undertaking”, (whereas previously it applied to anyone making a decision that significantly affected the business). This will likely limit liability to “very senior governance roles”. It is also now clear that professionals who “merely advise or make recommendations” are not officers.
  • Definitions of “risk” and “hazard” given common meanings – The definition of both terms still borrow heavily from the current Act, but the prescription included at the first reading of the Bill has been removed. In doing so, the hope is to “encourage people to consider what risk means to them, in their particular circumstances”. However, this may also encourage WorkSafe to consider what risk means to it.
  • Volunteers not normally workers – It is now clear that volunteers are not owed the same duties as workers. As a general rule, PCBUs will only owe duties to volunteers engaged in “ongoing and regular” work.
  • Duties not owed to trespassers – The Bill contains various carve outs for people unlawfully at a workplace.
  • No corporate manslaughter – Despite the rhetoric surrounding it, the Bill does not include provision for corporate manslaughter.
  • Farms not always workplaces – The Bill specifically notes that farms are only considered workplaces in specific areas where work is actually being carried out.
  • No accommodation duties where other lodging available – In the First Reading employers arguably owed duties in relation to any accommodation offered as part of an employment package. It is now clear that those duties only apply where the worker has no choice of other accommodation open to them.
  • Representative and committee obligations pared back – Workplaces that are not in a high risk industry and have fewer than 20 workers are no longer required to hold elections for a representative. There is no longer a requirement for a deputy representative at all, and a committee need not be established if workers are already “participating effectively in improving health and safety” or if the workplace has fewer than 20 employees and is not in a high risk industry.
  • Limitation period for prosecutions reduced – The proposed new limitation period of two years for prosecutions has been reduced to 12 months for prosecutions by WorkSafe. This is still a significant increase over the current six month period. A 12 month extension will be possible and the limitation period will be two years for private prosecutions (although additional criteria must be met).
  • Notices and undertakings may be published – inspectors will be able to display a copy of a notice given under the Act in a prominent place on a work site and on the internet.
  • WorkSafe may impose levies – The Bill contains broad provisions allowing the imposition of levies to recover WorkSafe’s costs in relation to the provision of particular services under the Bill. The provisions appear to be targeted at recovering the costs associated with the oversight of specialised workplaces (major hazard facilities) but could have broader application.

 Please feel free to get in touch with a member of the team if you would like to discuss this, or any other issue.

 


 

This publication is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice.

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