No get out of jail free card on workplace health and safety
With Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 now in force for a little over two months, business owners need to have a full understanding of the new legislation to avoid the risk of prosecution.
While the changes may be enough to make your head spin, Maralyn Kastel, of health and safety management specialists The Detail Devils, has warned that there are no ‘get out of jail free’ cards.
No grace period was included in the Act,and business owners and officers may face up to five years in jail for the most serious breaches of the legislation. However, some Queensland codes of practice will continue where there is no comparable national model and there are some transitional arrangements.
Ms Kastel warned that there is no defence for “my brain hurts” or “it’s all too hard”, nor can you say “I thought it was going to change”.
“For your health and safety management system to work effectively, you need to make sure that you understand the key changes in your responsibilities and obligations,” Ms Kastel said.
“Once these are understood, you’ll have a platform of duties to help you manage your compliance requirements. Developing and continuing good business practice in work health and safety makes economic sense for you, your workers and your bottom line.”
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act 2011), which came into force on 1 January this year, was passed by the Queensland Parliament in May last year.
It reflects the national model WHS Act – designed to harmonise work health and safety legislation across states and territories – but with changes to enable it to operate within the Queensland jurisdiction.
Ms Kastel described the situation in Queensland as even more confusing than in some other states, with the WHS legislation subjecting PCBUs (employers) to perhaps more change than anywhere else.
“If that’s not bad enough, there is also the prospect of the harmonised legislation being overturned if there is a change in government this month,” Ms Kastel added.
Mr Malone, the Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Employment and Skills, stated in December last year that "The LNP has reserved the right to amend the laws should we win government…”.
“Regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming election in Queensland, and harmonised legislation or not, managing work health and safety effectively may well save your business, your livelihood and your freedom,” Ms Kastel said.
“Now that makes sense to my brain – what about you?”
Information on the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011 can be found at Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.