Are you Work Health and Safety ready? New laws begin tomorrow

After 38 years, WA’s work health and safety laws will be modernised
Date: Wednesday, 30 March 2022
  • The Work Health and Safety Act 2020 and regulations will commence March 31, 2022
  • After 38 years, WA’s work health and safety laws will be modernised

The McGowan Government’s new Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws begin tomorrow improving protections for all Western Australian workers.

A national first, the new laws bring together WHS for general industry, mines and petroleum operations under a single act.

The new laws recognise modern work relationships such as subcontractors and gig economy workers, and introduces the term ‘person conducting a business undertaking’.

Therefore, anyone who engages a WA worker has a duty to protect their health and safety, mentally and physically.

WA’s new laws harmonise with other States and Territories, except Victoria, although amendments have been made to tailor the laws to reflect our unique State.

This means companies that operate across Australia will have similar obligations and requirements in each State and Territory.

The new laws confirm that officers (senior decision makers) must exercise due diligence to ensure compliance with the laws, ensuring that the responsibility for workplace safety sits with those at the top of an organisation’s hierarchy.

Industrial manslaughter laws will also begin, carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $5 million fine for an individual, and a maximum $10 million fine for a body corporate.

Insurance will no longer cover penalties, ensuring that persons conducting a business undertaking are held accountable for their actions and are responsible for financial penalties.

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Comments attributed to Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston:

"It’s a historic day, as the McGowan Government launches Western Australia’s modern, new Work Health and Safety laws that come into effect tomorrow.

"The new laws reflect the social obligations and responsibilities the community expects from companies and their senior management.

"Thank you to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety and the WA Commission for Occupational Safety and Health for all their hard work on developing these new laws.

"Thanks also to the many stakeholders who significantly contributed including employers, unions and workplace safety advocates - particularly Regan Ballantine.

"The reforms that come with the new laws will most certainly further enhance workplace safety in Western Australia."

Comments attributed to Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA CEO Paul Everingham:

"CME and its member companies congratulate the WA Government on the introduction of the State’s new Work Health and Safety laws.

"A lot of hard work has gone into these laws, with the pathway to today involving significant collaborative effort between government, unions, industry and many others.

"WA’s mining and resources sector puts health and safety at the forefront of all that it does, and we welcome these modernised laws that align our State with the majority of the country.

"It’s particularly pleasing to see psychosocial health given explicit consideration within the new laws, which is a strong focus for CME and our members."

Comments attributed to workplace safety advocate Regan Ballantine:

"Five years ago, my 17-year-old son Wesley Ballantine was killed at work in negligent circumstances.

"Wesley was exposed to an obvious and fatal risk that was not mitigated by his employer or the head contractor, and it cost my son his life.

"It holds true for me, that had meaningful consequences been in place, when he innocently set off for work, he could still be here today.

"If the satisfaction of sending Wesley home at the end of his workday was not motivation enough - perhaps the threat of a custodial sentence would have been.

"The modernised WHS Act, which incorporates tougher penalties, is of profound importance to each and every West Australian.

"These laws will help ensure that others never stand in my shoes, never suffer what I have suffered and never feel the fear that my son did when he fell to his death.

"It is now up to industry to live up to them."