In the July issue of Insight, we outlined possible changes to Queensland legislation with implications to the provision of a safe workplace for labour hire workers. This month, we report on proposed changes to the Queensland Work Health and Safety legislation with more direct implications to the management of workplaces in the state.
The Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 (available here) was introduced into Parliament on 22 August and has now gone to Parliamentary Committee for review.
Key changes to WHS legislation introduced by the Bill include:
- The introduction of a new offence for industrial manslaughter that can apply to a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) or a senior officer, with a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for an individual or $10 million for a corporate offender.
- The creation of a new independent statutory office, Office of the WHS Prosecutor, with the responsibility for conducting and defending court proceedings under the WHS Act, in order to separate the function of enforcing compliance with the WHS Act from monitoring compliance (which will still be the responsibility of the Regulator)
- Transferring jurisdiction for decisions subject to review such as issuing Improvement Notices from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) and giving the QIRC responsibility for hearing disputes.
- Providing Inspectors with the power to make a determination on matters where WHS right of entry issues can’t be resolved after reasonable efforts, such as whether there is a valid right to enter.
- Requiring strict compliance with the safety measures in WHS Codes of Practice unless the duty holder can demonstrate equivalent or better measures,
- Requiring Codes to be reviewed every five years to ensure they are relevant.
- Reintroducing the role of Workplace Health and Safety Officer (WHSO), although not mandating their appointment.
- Prohibiting duty holders from entering into enforceable undertakings in lieu of prosecution, for alleged offences involving a fatality.
- Requiring PCBUs to provide the Regulator with lists of their health and safety reps and copies of provisional improvement notices issued by HSRs, and mandating new training requirements for HSRs.
From this point, the Bill will be reviewed by Parliamentary Committee after which it will be re-introduced to Parliament and at that time further amendments may be made.