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In October 2007, then-Opposition Industrial Relations spokesperson Julia Gillard (now Prime Minister) announced that her future government would move towards a more harmonized approach to occupational health and safety (WHS) and workers’ compensation legislation. in Australia.
Under the Australian Constitution, the federal government has no powers to make workplace health and safety laws, so it is also the focus of negotiating with states and territories to develop ‘model’ laws that could then be adopted in each jurisdiction to result in ‘harmonized’ laws. across the country.
The Labor Party was elected and in May 2008, as Minister for Industrial Relations, Ms. Gillard announced that a national review of all occupational health and safety laws across the country would take place. The resulting findings were published and the public presentations ranked.
Hundreds of submissions were received and a great debate ensued within the Australian community, industry, unions and jurisdictions.
Several jurisdictions enacted their versions of the law with start dates of January 1, 2012. South Australia and Tasmania recently moved towards an effective start date of January 1, 2013.
However, neither Victoria nor Wester Australia appear to be moving towards the new laws. Recently, Federal Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations Bill Shorten called on the governments of Victoria and Western Australia to introduce their new health and safety laws.
“Workers and employers in South Australia and Tasmania will join millions of other Australians who already benefit from harmonized WHS laws in other states and territories. This year marks the first time in history that a majority of Australians will be covered by harmonized occupational health and safety agreements, “Said the Minister.
The new Law and Regulations on Safety and Health at Work aims to promote coherence and reduce bureaucracy, especially for companies working in 2 or more jurisdictions. According to Ministor Shorten, increased productivity is worth up to $ 2 billion a year for the next 10 years.
The result, for now, is that companies have a variety of obligations in Australia. However, for the first time, all jurisdictions are debating occupational safety and health across borders. The national government is committed and the future looks like a harmonized approach.
It is vital that companies act now to determine what their current and future legal obligations are. Those that operate in different jurisdictions may have a different start date. The new laws bring a different approach, additional obligations, and higher penalties than what existed before. Boards of directors, business owners, and senior managers are legally required to conduct WHS compliance checks to ensure they keep their workers safe.