Health and Safety Reform Bill: Changes from the exposure draft

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The Health and Safety Reform Bill, which is largely based on the Australian Model Health and Safety Law, has undergone some changes since the government released the Health and Safety Reform Bill - Draft for Consultation ("Exposure Draft") in November.

While most changes are to changes and clarifications to definitions and technical terms there are some notable ones to be aware of.
They include:
  • The application of the Act to the Crown, armed forces, aircraft, ships, Exclusive Economic Zone, and high risk plant;
  • the definition of “officer” has been narrowed; The exposure draft defined an “officer” as someone who makes “or participates in making” decisions that affect the whole or a substantial part of the business, and expressly included the CFO. However this Bill removes the person who merely “participates” in decision-making, and the reference to the CFO;
  • introduces a number of new definitions in the Interpretation section, including "hazard", "high risk plant", and "risk";
  • the exclusion of certain office holders such as elected members of: community boards, local authorities, local government boards, and school boards of trustees from offences that would be imposed on an “officer” for failing to comply with due diligence;
  • removal of provisions related to the election of health and safety representatives;
  • the obligation to “consult” with workers has changed to an obligation to “engage”.  However the specifics of the obligations have not changed;
  • It allows a regulator to remove a health and safety representative who is deemed to be ineffective. The decision can be appealed;
  • the maximum fines for failing to institute worker participation practices doubles to $20,000 for an individual who owes a duty under the Bill and $100,000 for a body corporate;
  • The inclusion of the obligation on a PCBU to provide information to a health and safety committee rather than just have that information “accessible”;
  • PCBU will have an obligation to adopt a recommendation from a health and safety committee within a reasonable timeframe or provide reasons why not.
The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee is now accepting submissions on the bill which are due by April 11, 2014. The Select Committee is then scheduled to report back to parliament by September 13, 2014, with the expectation the Bill will passed into law by the end of the year and in force from 1 April, 2015.

Information for this article was drawn from legal commentary from Chapman Tripp senior associate Marie Wisker and senior solicitor Vonda Hodgson and Russell McVeagh lawyers Richard McIlraith, Malcolm Crotty, Kylie Dunn, Adrian Olney and Gillian Service.

For further insights  view Chapmann Tripp’s commentary here or  Russell McVeagh ‘s here.
  • Jim Heffernan on 24/03/2014 1:14:17 p.m.

    Excellent artcle, I really appreciate this and also the excellent summary you wrote a week or so back. Please could you elaborate a little on what you mean by "•removal of provisions related to the election of health and safety representatives"?

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