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Harmonisation Update

Every state in Australia except Western Australia will adopt the national harmonised health and safety laws.

A meeting of state and federal Workplace Relations Ministers held on 11 December 2009 approved the creation of consistent health and safety laws to operate from 1 January 2012 as the Work Health and Safety Act.

The only state to not agree to this was WA, who will opt out of key elements of the harmonised laws.

This is embarrassing for WA,  and bad for workers and business alike. Jurisdictional problems for business operating across state boarders were cited as one of the main reasons for harmonisation. Business has welcomed the hamonised laws, but called on Western Australia to speed its progress towards fully participating in the national system. 

 The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), unions, WorkSafe and  industry experts have fully participated in every phase in the development of these model laws, but despite this the Barnett Government is still opting out of a number of key elements of the new legislation:

  • Harsher penalties for employers breaching OSH law. Current penalties for killing a worker in WA are far too low, with the maximum penalty for a second offence being $625,000. Other states will now have a maximum penalty of $3 million. How is this not justified in WA?
  • The ability to cease work. Every worker has that right now, although many don't know it.  The new laws would have allowed for both workers and trained health and safety reps to direct workers in their area to stop working if serious and imminent harm was evident.  This would have been of a great benefit for every workplace but particularly in industries where there are lots of young or less experienced workers. 
  • Right of entry. Other states allow a trained union official to enter a workplace if there is imminent risk of harm. Workers need the support and information provided by their union when there is a health and safety issue. Again, how is this OK for the rest of the country but not for WA?

The West Australian regulator Worksafe is under funded, and has only 50 active inspectors for the entire state. Workplaces need unions actively involved with health and safety.

The Barnett State Government has opted for partisan provisions to protect employers, not health and safety for West Australian workers.

 

 
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