WA legislation

Work health and safety (WHS) laws require employers and all other workplace parties to consult and cooperate in the management of workplace risks, in order to protect the health and safety of workers and others who might be at risk from the work.

A Western Australian version of the national model WHS Act – the Work Health and Safety Bill 2014 – was tabled in Parliament in November 2014 and released for public comment until 30 January 2015. It contains the core provisions of the model laws, with some modifications to suit the WA working environment. A list of differences from the model WHS legislation is available on WorkSafe’s website. In many respects the Bill is reasonably consistent with much of WA’s existing occupational safety and health (OSH) legislation. Key areas in which requirements are expected to change are indicated below.

Current OSH legislation


Until the new WHS laws are passed and take effect, the principal OSH law in Western Australia consists of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA), supported by the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (WA). This legislation applies in all WA workplaces and should be checked for details of requirements.

The OSH Act and Regulations are supported by codes of practice that provide guidance in achieving the required standard of health and safety.

Codes of practice approved in WA are listed on the website of WorkSafe (WA).

OSH regulator


The state’s OSH regulator is WorkSafe, a division of WA’s Department of Commerce.

Health and safety duties
 

The OSH Act 1984 imposes duties on a range of workplace parties, including employers; employees; self-employed persons; persons who have control of workplaces; designers of any plant, building or structure for use at workplaces; manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant or substance for use at workplaces; and people who install or erect plant, or construct any building or structure. 

Duty-holders must ensure, as far as is practicable, that they are not exposing people to health and safety risks arising from the work.

Key concepts

 

Preventing exposure to hazards

Employers must, so far as is practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which the employees are not exposed to hazards. The OSH Act spells out employers’ duties to provide and maintain proper workplaces, plant, and systems of work; give employees adequate information, instruction, training and supervision; consult and cooperate with employees and their representatives; and provide employees with protection against hazards, including those arising from plant or substances.

Practicable

Duty holders must carry out their OSH duties so far as is practicable. ‘Practicable’ here means reasonably practicable, that is, having regard to the likelihood of adverse consequences and their potential severity, methods of eliminating or minimising the risk and what the person knows or ought to know about it, and the availability, suitability and cost of dealing with the risk.

Representation and consultation

On request, employers must facilitate representation of employees through safety and health representatives (SHRs) and/or a safety and health committee. 

Employers must consult and cooperate with SHRs (if any) and other employees regarding OSH at the workplace. Consultation must be two-way and involve sharing of information, giving employees a reasonable opportunity to express their views and taking employees’ views into account when coming to a decision about an OSH matter.

Right to cease work 

A worker may cease work or refuse to carry out work if he or she has a reasonable concern that the work poses an imminent, serious risk to health and safety.

Discrimination

Discrimination against a person is expressly prohibited if the reason for it is primarily because the person is or was an SHR or was performing a function in that capacity. Under the proposed new WHS legislation, this prohibition is expected to be broadened to cover all workers and prospective workers.

Issue resolution procedures

Employers and employees must attempt to resolve health and safety issues in accordance with an agreed procedure, or if no procedure has been established, the procedure prescribed by the regulations.

Incident notification 

The OSH regulator must be notified of serious injuries and incidents. Employers must investigate matters reported to them and notify the employee reporting the matter of relevant decisions. 

Right of entry

Union officials do not have the right to enter a workplace to investigate contraventions of OSH laws under the state OSH Act, nor are they likely to have it under the proposed WHS laws. However, the right of entry provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) allow union officials who hold valid entry permits to enter employers’ businesses for certain purposes.  

Licences, registration, approvals, training certificates and other requirements

Requirements for licences (eg high risk work licences), construction induction training certificates, plant registration and other such approvals must be complied with.

Prosecutions and other enforcement options

Breach of OSH laws can have a range of consequences, including improvement or prohibition notices from inspectors; prosecutions; fines; imprisonment; and enforceable undertakings. 

[Last updated 25 May 2015]

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