Workplace Health and Safety
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Harmonisation of the work health and safety laws
The Commonwealth and each state and territory government agreed to harmonise their work health and safety laws so that work health and safety laws were similar in each jurisdiction. This includes health and safety regulations, codes of practice and guidance material. Each jurisdiction (with the exception of a couple of States) enacted the model health and safety laws through its own legislation. Minor but necessary variations were made to the model laws to ensure consistency with relevant drafting protocols and other laws and processes operating within a jurisdiction. In Queensland the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 and Workplace Health and Safety Regulation 2008 have now both been repealed and replaced with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.
Work Health and Safety Act 2011
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) provides a framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of all workers at work. It also protects the health and safety of all other people who might be affected by the work. All workers are protected by the WHS Act. This includes employees, contractors, subcontractors, outworkers, apprentices and trainees, work experience students, volunteers and employers who perform work. The WHS Act also provides protection for the general public so that their health and safety is not placed at risk by work activities.
The WHS Act places the primary health and safety duty on a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), who must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers at the workplace. Duties are also placed on officers of a PCBU, workers and other persons at a workplace. All duties under the WHS Act are qualified by the term 'reasonably practicable'.
The WHS Act also sets out the requirements for the following:
- incident notification
- consultation with workers
- issue resolution
- inspector powers and functions
- offences and penalties.
Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
If the regulation describes how to prevent or minimise a risk at your workplace you must do what the regulation says. If there is no regulation or code of practice about a risk at your workplace you must choose an appropriate way to manage exposure to the risk. A PCBU must, where there is no regulation or code of practice about a risk, eliminate or minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
Codes of Practice
A code of practice provides practical guidance for people who have work health and safety duties about how to achieve the standards required under the Act, and about effective ways to identify and manage risks. A code of practice applies to anyone who has a duty of care in the circumstances described in the code. In most cases, following an approved code of practice would achieve compliance with the health and safety duties in the Act, in relation to the subject matter of the code. Like regulations, codes of practice deal with particular issues and do not cover all hazards or risks which may arise. The health and safety duties require duty holders to consider all risks associated with work, not only those for which regulations and codes of practice exist.