We have got you covered: WA’s new work health and safety laws

As of March 2022, Western Australia’s new work, health and safety (WHS) laws have commenced operation under the Work Health and Safety Act 2020.

Here’s what you need to know about the new Work Health and Safety laws and how they could impact your business, with information about our up-to-date Work Health and Safety online training course.

The new WHS law in WA

The previous occupational safety and health (OHS) laws were introduced in 1984 and were supported by other legislation around specific health and safety measures relevant to mines and petroleum operations.

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety has now developed new Work Health and Safety laws for Western Australia, incorporating obligations relating to general industry, mines and petroleum operations into a single act.

The WHS Act applies to most workplaces within Western Australia, including mines and petroleum and geothermal energy operations, and brings Western Australia into line with Australia’s harmonised national model WHS laws, while broadening the scope of WHS duties for businesses and workers.

Some of the latest changes

The concept of Person conducting business or undertaking (PCBU)

The WHS Act introduces the concept of a PCBU, which captures a wider variety of workplace relationships than the employer/employee relationship that existed under the OHS regime.

Under the WHS Act, all PCBUs have a primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their workers and others who may be affected by the carrying out of work.

If you are the PCBU you would need to take action to eliminate risks to health and safety. You should pay attention to the strategic, structural, policy and key resourcing decisions involved in running your business.

Industrial manslaughter offence

The WHS Act includes a new offence of industrial manslaughter, which involves high penalties for PCBUs in a business in which a WHS duty causes the death of an individual, where the PCBU knew the conduct could cause harm.

An organisation may be held liable for a fine of up to $10,000,000 and an individual/officer 20 years jail time if found guilty of the offence.

Insurance coverage not available for penalties

The WHS Act voids insurance coverage for Work Health and Safety penalties and imposes penalties for providing or purchasing this insurance.

This prohibition is designed to encourage greater attention to compliance with the new laws as it prevents financial protection in the event there is a breach of a duty resulting in a penalty under the WHS Act.

Officers are to exercise due diligence

Officers of a PCBU are required to meet due diligence obligations by ensuring the PCBU complies with its duties and obligations under the WHS Act. The duty is a positive one and requires the officer to take reasonable steps to comply with the due diligence duty.

Officers include an officer as identified in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), which captures a person who makes or participates in making decisions that affect the PCBU or have the capacity to significantly affect the PCBU’s financial standing.

Where does your business go from here?

PCBUs and their officers need to take urgent steps now to ensure they are compliant with the WHS Act. This can be done through:

• reviewing work health and safety procedures: ensure they reflect the duties and obligations under the WHS Act and appropriate preventative measures are in place to protect against health and safety risks

• ensuring both the PCBU and officers are exercising due diligence: educate officers and senior management on the changes, ensuring they have a process to keep a relevant knowledge of WHS matters in the business, understand businesses’ operations and the health and safety risks in it, and ensure the use of resources and processes to maintain WHS Act compliance

• ensuring processes for consultation and cooperation are engaged where multiple employers or contractors are involved, and ensure internal processes involve meaningful consultation with workers

• considering if incident recording and investigation processes need to change, so that they reflect the importance of identifying and removing hazards and the increased risk to the PCBU and individuals

What GRC Solutions is doing to help you

To learn more about the new laws and help you work out what this means for your business, we’ve updated our Work, Health and Safety course to train you and your staff on where to go from here.

These updates appear seamlessly in off-the-shelf course versions.

Get in touch with one of our experts today to learn more.