As part of its commitment to improving safety for Queenslanders at work, the Palaszcuk Government has passed a new Bill, which introduces a number of changes to the State’s work health and safety (WHS) laws.
The WHS Bill aims to restore elements of the original Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld), which were altered following a review of the laws in 2012. In summary, these amendments:
• allow WHS entry permit holders to enter a workplace immediately if they suspect a contravention has occurred – this removes the requirement to provide at least 24 hours’ notice of entry (see sections 163-166);
• allow trained health and safety representatives to direct workers to cease work which would expose the worker to a serious and immediate or imminent risk to their health and safety (see sections 68-69);
• allow trained health and safety representatives to request the immediate assistance of any person at the workplace – this removes the requirement for at least 24 hours’ notice (see sections 68-69);
• remove the penalty for failing to provide notice of entry (which is a notable departure from the current national WHS laws); and
• reduce the maximum penalty for contravening WHS entry permit conditions from 200 penalty units to 100 penalty units (see section 123).
These amendments came into effect on 22 October 2015 and essentially revive some of the powers for health and safety representatives that were removed by the Newman Government.
For some employers, these changes are viewed as a step backwards and will only allow unions to continue using safety issues as a mechanism for seeking other industrial agendas.
Along with this Bill, there have also been amendments to the Electrical Safety Act 2002, including the reinstatement of an Electrical Safety Commissioner, the Electrical Safety Education Committee and the Electrical Equipment Committee. These were abolished in 2012 and are due to commence once appointments have been made for these roles.
For more information on workplace health and safety, please call the National Retail Association Hotline on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).