Health and Safety Reform Bill: Get prepared

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If all goes to the Government's plan the Health and Safety Reform Bill will be law by April 2015 and with it will come a number of changes including more onus on PCBUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ which includes employers, principals and persons in control of a place of work).

The bill will see PCBUs charged with the duty to notify the regulator of ‘notifiable events’; keep records of ‘notifiable events’; and ensure that the site where a ‘notifiable event’ has occurred is kept undisturbed until otherwise authorised by an inspector.

In a legal commentary Hesketh Henry senior associate Alison Maelzer and solicitor Sarah Holderness advised businesses to ensure that they are ready for the new requirements now.

“The recording and reporting obligations are being clarified and increased. The time frames are shorter, and the onus is clearly on the PCBU to ensure that WorkSafe knows about serious accidents very quickly so it can commence its investigation. The recording of all notifiable incidents will also be a priority for the PCBU,” the two explained.
 
So what will be changing? Currently employers and principals must report “serious harm” injuries to WorkSafe as soon as possible, and provide written notification within seven days.

Maelzer and Holderness write that the difficulty with this is knowing what “serious harm” is as there are a number of grey areas.
 
Under the reform Bill a notifiable event will mean the death of a person; or a notifiable injury or illness that includes an injury/illness that requires immediate treatment, hospitalisation, and/or medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure; or a notifiable incident.

Maelzer and Holderness explain that as soon as the PCBU becomes aware of a notifiable incident they will be required to immediately notify the regulator by the fastest means possible. Failure to do so will be an offence and any conviction will result in a fine.

Additionally, the PCBU will be required to keep a record of all notifiable events for at least five years commencing with the date that the PCBU notifies the regulator of each event (in accordance with the duty to notify as outlined above).

A failure to keep this record will mean that the person in contravention of the duty will be committing an offence, and could be fined if convicted.
 
The duty to ensure the site where a notifiable event has occurred is kept undisturbed will remain as under the present Act, in that the site of the incident is not disturbed until authorised by an inspector.

Like the previous duties anyone breaching this duty will be committing an offence and be liable on conviction to a fine.

Maelzer and Holderness advise that there will be no time to prepare for these changes after the Bill comes into force so now is the time to act.
 
“In our experience, reporting usually 'falls through the cracks', when a supervisor, foreman or manager who is notified or 'on the scene' of an accident is unaware of the reporting requirements, and fails to report it to either to WorkSafe or his/her managers. The employer (soon to be ‘PCBU’) has then failed to meet its obligations due to the employee’s ignorance. To avoid this possibility, it is vital that all managers, supervisors and others who have some authority are made aware their obligations in the event of an accident: to freeze the scene, notify WorkSafe, and record it.”

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