As a result of significant public concern and the recommendations of two national reviews, the Work Health and Safety Bill 2019 was passed by Parliament on 3 November 2020 and is awaiting royal assent. These significant changes to OHS compliance in WA will harmonise with the National Work Health Safety Act as well as introduce new industrial manslaughter legislation. These changes will significantly increase the burden on employers to ensure that they have safe work practices in place and to prevent accidents from occurring.
The new Work Health and Safety Act 2019 (WHS Act) will replace the current Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, and elements of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 and the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Safety Levies Act 2011 that relate to work health and safety.
The new legislation includes criminalising industrial manslaughter – this includes a maximum penalty of between five and 20 years of imprisonment for an individual and a maximum $10 million fine for a body corporate.
This news represents a progressive movement in the Western Australian Parliament. The new laws will offer greater protection to WA workers, encompassing modern day employment relationships, rather than the previously outdated employer/employee relationship. This is reflective of the ever-developing nature of modern day employment opportunities where the Bill sets out to protect all types of workers.
You may see the abbreviation ‘PCBU’ thrown around more in the coming years, it’s a new term meaning ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU). This captures the broader elements of all types of organizations including those without employees. A PCBU can also be an individual including a member of a partnership and a sole trader, but will typically apply to companies and other entities.
(WA Parliament Harmonises WHS Legislation, Barry Nilsson Lawyers 2020)
To read more on some of the other introductions to the Bill, click here for the article provided by Barry Nilsson Lawyers, written by Laura Sowden, Anna Ly and Theresa Au.