Work Health Safety laws for Western Australia

Friday 23 Oct 2020

The Work Health and Safety Bill 2019 passed the Legislative Council this week with amendments, which now have to be approved by the Legislative Assembly. The legislation is expected to be implemented once the supporting regulations are finalised next year.

The passage of the legislation will see WA join Queensland, Victoria and the ACT in having an industrial manslaughter offence on the books, which can attract a maximum penalty of between five and 20 years' jail for an individual and a maximum $10 million fine for a body corporate.

The new laws will also finally align WA laws with those in other states and territories, except Victoria, although some amendments have been tailored to reflect WA's status as a ‘unique’ state. 

The laws will offer greater protection to workers, capturing modern employment relationships, such as subcontractors or casual workers, not just employer/employee relationships. In particular, they will introduce the term 'person conducting a business or undertaking'. The legislation increases penalties, prohibits insurance coverage for OHS penalties and introduces enforceable undertakings as an alternative to a penalty. For the first time, all industries in WA will operate under a single piece of OHS legislation but with separate regulations.

It is the first time our OHS laws have really changed in 30 years.

The legislation had stalled in recent months. WA unions this week rallied outside the State Parliament, calling for a vote on the legislation before November 3, which would have left the Bill in limbo until after the state election in March next year.

Well done to all involved for getting this important legislation passed. A particular thank you from HSUWA to UnionsWA.

We also warmly acknowledge the McGowan Government’s firm commitment to modernising our safety laws over the past three years.

Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said: "I'm very pleased that we have significantly increased the maximum penalties available to the courts for companies and directors responsible for workplace tragedies. This will act as a deterrent and ensure all workplaces focus on improving safety culture."

HSUWA members have been working for many years to improve safety culture and look forward to the required regulations being finalised next year.

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