As amendments are made over time, staying on top of health and safety legislation updates can feel like trying to catch a moving target.
But health and safety legislation is mandatory for a good reason: it goes a long way in keeping your employees and customers out of harm’s way on your premises.
Meeting your legislative requirements gives you confidence that you’re taking adequate steps to make your work environment safe by managing and mitigating physical and psychological risks.
It’s no secret that working proactively to control health and safety risks is much better than the alternative, which leaves employees and other stakeholders at higher risk of injury and illness in the workplace. As a company responsible for controlling these risks, non-compliance can also cost you big time:
- Expensive fines: fines may enter hundreds of thousands of dollars for serious breaches.
- Reputational damage: unsafe operations can lead to customers boycotting the organisation.
- Imprisonment: in serious cases, like breaches of the director’s duties, false or misleading disclosure and dishonest conduct, individuals may face prison time.
Here are some examples of significant legislative updates from the last 12 months (Victoria, Western Australia) and tips and strategies on how to manage these, which are included in our Legislative updates service.
The latest health and safety legislative updates
1. The transition to GHS 7
The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals Revision 7 (GHS 7) officially took effect on 1 January 2023, after a two-year transition period for companies previously using the third revised version of the GHS (GHS 3).
The GHS was established by the United Nations as a universal approach to classify chemicals based on their hazards and effectively communicate this information through labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
The changes were introduced to match key trading partners’ move to GHS 7 and ensure classifications, labels, and SDS use up-to-date communication.
Australian manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals must only classify and label them using GHS 7. While you don’t need to re-label or dispose of existing products, your SDS must comply with the new requirements. In addition, suppliers and users of hazardous materials should only accept new stock manufactured, classified and labelled according to GHS 7.
2. Key changes for Victoria
The Workplace Safety Legislation and Matters Amendment Act 2022 (the Act) marks a significant milestone in ensuring the welfare of workers across various industries.
Coming into effect on 16 March 2022, this legislation introduced new safety measures employers must abide by when engaging labour-hire companies.
The Act stresses that labour-hire workers must be treated with the same level of care as regular employees while working at the host employer’s workplace.
In addition, it requires host employers and labour-hire companies to engage in regular consultations regarding work, health, and safety matters, as they now share duties under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act.
Since 22 September 2022, it has become a serious criminal offence to enter into, benefit from or be party to an insurance contract that offers protection against fines and penalties for violations of the OHS Act.
This aims to hold companies accountable for their actions and prevent them from seeking financial shelter through insurance policies in the event of OHS breaches.
However, businesses can still rely on their insurance contracts to cover the expenses associated with legal representation during WorkSafe investigations or similar proceedings.
3. Key changes for Western Australia
On 31 March 2022, Western Australia introduced its new Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws, which brought about significant changes under the Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WA).
Major changes included an increased maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter, which rose to $5 million and 20 years of imprisonment for individuals, compared to the previous $550,000 fine and 5-year prison sentence. Similarly, companies are now subject to a maximum penalty of $10 million, a significant increase from the previous $2.7 million.
Under the new legislation, the WA Supreme Court can also reinstate a company previously in liquidation to prosecute the responsible company officer, closing a legal loophole that once shielded such entities.
Strategies for managing health and safety legislative updates
1. Education and training
Finding reliable resources to keep you up-to-date on news and analysis in this area is one of the most effective ways to make sure you don’t miss any important OHS legislation changes. OHS Alert is an example of one reliable source.
Attending conferences is another great way to stay informed, with institutions like The Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office (VGSO) organising free monthly seminars featuring experienced speakers who often discuss OHS topics.
In addition, a specialised consultant can provide valuable guidance and expertise as you navigate the complexities of OHS.
2. Complete regular audits
Regular audits of existing systems are essential to ensure ongoing compliance with OHS regulations.
An audit proactively identifies any potential issues or gaps between the implemented systems and the evolving regulatory requirements.
By actively staying ahead of the curve, organisations can maintain a safe working environment and adapt to the ever-changing health and safety legal landscape.
3. Develop a road map
A road map is a detailed strategy for maintaining OHS compliance in the months and years ahead. Its implementation helps companies protect workers from potential harm while reducing unnecessary compliance costs.
By consistently monitoring progress, organisations can make necessary adjustments to ensure continual adherence to the most up-to-date regulations, ultimately prioritising the wellbeing of employees and fostering a safety-oriented culture.
Contact us about managing health and safety legislative updates
At ICS, we have extensive experience helping businesses get and stay compliant with legal and regulatory requirements. Our legislative updates service is cloud-based, user-friendly and available Australia-wide.
Contact us today and find out how our team can help you achieve your business’ legislative compliance goals.