The potential hazards within workplaces remain the same, but new health and safety laws relating to the workplace have recently been enacted in Australia.
In 2012, a single model for health and safety within workplaces was introduced for all Australian states and territories. Replacing nine separate Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Acts, the new Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws mean that a consistent approach to workplace safety is now in place across the nation.
According to Louise Godwin, Director Education for TAFE NSW – Western Sydney Institute (WSI), the rationale for introducing the new, nationwide legislation was to reduce the burden of excessive regulation on businesses and to ensure all workers in Australia can expect to have a healthy and safe work life.
“OHS was identified by the federal government as a regulatory hot spot, costing businesses and the wider economy a significant amount of money,” Louise said.
“The federal government aims to develop a ‘seamless economy’ which will help to trim down excessive spending on compliance costs. It will also mean increased efficiency for regulatory agencies and make it easier to conduct business across states and territory boundaries.”
The new laws include some new terminology for WHS and also mean a slight shift in its regulatory focus. The focus of the new legislation is upon the duty of stakeholders to take reasonable care and to demonstrate due diligence in work processes. The new legislation also moves away from the employment relationship being the basis of obligations, with the goal of removing loop-holes and gaps in the duty of care for all people involved in work.
Instead of ‘employers’ the new WHS laws refer to PCBUs – or ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’. PCBUs have a duty to ensure the health and safety of others so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminating or minimising the hazards arising from work. Within PCBUs, officers are those who make or participate in making decisions affecting a business or undertaking. Officers have a responsibility to ensure their PCBU is fulfilling its duties under the WHS legislation.
Employees are now referred to as workers – a more broad term which captures anyone carrying out work in any capacity, including employees, volunteers, apprentices, subcontractors and so on. Workers must take reasonable care for their own and others’ health and safety and comply and cooperate with reasonable WHS instructions, policies and procedures of their PCBU.
With the introduction of new legislation, businesses have an opportunity to refresh and update their employee’s WHS knowledge and skills with customised training, according to Louise Godwin.
“We often find that providing this training either onsite or offsite to employees is a valuable exercise, the benefits of which go far beyond expectations,” Louise said.
“Work Health and Safety is an important issue for businesses as it is concerned with ensuring the wellbeing of the greatest asset a business can have – its’ people.”
“WSI is offering training in more than 30 units of competency for the new Work Health and Safety legislation, as well as qualifications such as the Certificates III and IV in Work Health and Safety and the Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas of Work Health and Safety.
“We will be offering refresher programs to those people who have already undertaken Occupational Health and Safety training, to update their knowledge and skills for the new legislation, as well as customised WHS options for businesses.”
To discuss your how WSI can develop WHS solutions for your business, please call Louise on (02) 9865 1100.
Article published in GWP Magazines - Business Resources & Lifestyle June 2012