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New Work Health & Safety Laws
From 1 January 2012 the current Occupational Health & Safety legislation (OHS laws) have been replaced by Work Health & Safety legislation (WHS laws). The legislation has been passed by NSW as well as other jurisdictions, and has commenced without any transitional or grace period.
The harmonisation of work health and safety laws aims to reduce the incidence of death, injury and disease across Australia. To date, all states and territories have been responsible for making and enforcing their own work health and safety laws. Although these draw on a similar approach for regulating workplaces, there are some differences in the application and detail of the laws.
Safe Work Australia is responsible for developing model work health and safety laws. The model work health and safety laws will consist of the model WHS Act, supported by model WHS Regulations and model Codes of Practice that can be readily adopted around Australia. This requires each state and territory to pass their own laws that mirror the model work health and safety laws and these were to have been adopted by December 2011.
What are the main changes?
  • If you are an employer, sole trader, association, partnership, corporation or volunteer organisation with paid workers, you will be classed as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). PCBU will replace the current term employer.
  • If you are an employee, volunteer, labour hire staff, apprentice, work experience student, trainee, outworker, sub-contractor or contractor, working for a PCBU you will be classed as a worker. Worker will replace the current term employee.
  • If you are a supplier, designer, manufacturer, importer, or manager or controller of a workplace, you will have specific duties in addition to those as a PCBU.
  • Health and safety representatives (HSRs) will replace current OHS representatives and play a key role in consultation.
  • Your industry may also be affected by specific changes.
  • If you work in – or even just visit – a workplace, you will have WHS rights and duties.
The key things that you as an employer or Person Conducting a Business Undertaking (PCBU) need to consider are:
  1. Broadening of responsibilities with respect to consultation. For example if you request another PCBU to get involved in some work that you are doing (e.g. a Sub Contractor using today’s vernacular) then you may be deemed responsible for any of their actions and for their safety.
  2. Employees under the new Act will now be referred to as Workers.
  3. Risk Assessments – this is a critical point. Just because you have undertaken a risk assessment is no longer considered sufficient. You MUST be able to prove that the effectiveness of the controls you put in place was sufficient and that you followed appropriate due diligence. Further you MUST manage risk, NOT just undertake a risk assessment.
  4. The scope of consultation is considerably larger, as you are now required to liase with other PCBU’s or Employers in today’s
If these changes affect you and your business, and they are likely to, we recommend you seek the appropriate assistance in ensuring that your business is compliant. The legislation is now in force so if you are not familiar with these changes we strongly urge that you make this a priority! We can recommend the services of one of our colleagues – Paul Tilbury from HR Genie, who provide a full range of services in the Human Resources area. You can contact Paul by email at
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