The Model WHS Laws: are they working or creating more red tape?

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAEarlier this year, COAG held a meeting where the federal, state and territory, and local governments agreed to review ways in which the model work health and safety (WHS) legislation could be improved to reduce red tape to make it easier for businesses and workers to comply with WHS responsibilities.

Following this agreement, stakeholders across all jurisdictions were recently asked to provide feedback on the regulatory burden associated with the WHS model laws, which were introduced in most jurisdictions in 2012 (other than Victoria and WA).

The ARA Safety and Risk Working Group submitted a response in July 2014 via WorkCover NSW, with Safe Work Australia, to collate the feedback and provide to COAG for review later this year.

Key feedback responses:

• Lack of true harmonisation and multi-jurisdictional differences continue to cause businesses burden administratively, financially and otherwise. As harmonisation has not been achieved, for those PCBU’s with reduced resources for managing WHS this remains a burden and causes misunderstanding.
• Improved practical guidance needed to assist in meeting legislative compliance, particularly for SME’s.
• Consideration of alternate training delivery mechanisms for HSRs, such as online or distance.
• Introduce competency based criteria for HSR training and remove the stipulation that it must be five days.
• Inconsistent prescriptive controls across jurisdictions and/or standards and WHS regulations present a burden, such as a lack of correlation between the Building Code and regulations.
• Clarification is warranted via improved guidance on expectations for contractor management. Contractors are completing inductions at multiple workplaces that are in many ways identical, presenting an administrative burden and adding to the cost of the service.
Next steps:

Stakeholder feedback, together with an issues paper developed by the Office of Best Practise Regulation, will be consolidated to produce a report to be provided to COAG by the end of 2014. If the model WHS laws are to be amended, those jurisdictions that have implemented the harmonised legislation will then decide on whether to incorporate the recommended changes. The ARA will continue to monitor any feedback relating to this investigation.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to the management of WHS in your business, contact the ARA Employment Relations team on 1300 368 041 to discuss further with one of our consultants.



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