OHS Harmonisation Laws

Safe Work Australia says it’s new workplace OHS harmonisation legislation will:

“provide a basis for developing sustainable, safe and healthy work environments and for reducing the number of people hurt or killed at work. The Strategy was agreed to by all Australian governments, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). The Strategy sets very clear and ambitious goals for OHS and is a key initiative to improve Australia’s OHS performance.”

What does the updates National OHS Harmonisation mean for your business?

With this new legislation and regulatory body comes a renewed focus on OH&S issues from a national perspective. Issues that might have only been looked at in certain states or precincts will now be taken into account on a national level. With this nationalised approach the Safe Work Australia Council hopes to increase the OHS knowledge and skills in workplaces and develop the capacity of business operators and workers to manage OHS effectively.

What the council hopes to bring to the table is:

  • Comprehensive OHS data collections
  • A co-ordinated research effort
  • A nationally consistent regulatory framework
  • Strategic enforcement
  • Effective incentives
  • Compliance support
  • Practical guidance
  • OHS awareness
  • OHS skills development

But what does it mean for your day-to-day operations?

Well for starters it means you will have less administration obligations to meet your OHS requirements particularly if your businesses are operating in different jurisdictions. It will also mean that it will be easier to employ workers from interstate or highly transient workers like backpackers and people on working holidays etc.

The inclusion of your employees having legislative requirements to work safely means that all staff within the business will have a better understanding of their OHS obligations and it’s necessary for everyone within the company to take responsibility for their own and others’ safety. The move towards a nationally recognised OHS legislation is a step in the right direction towards unifying the states in their OHS requirements and the security workers can expect in their place of employ across the country.

OHS Harmonisation Laws – What’s expected of you as a business owner in Australia?

As of 1st January 2012 the Commonwealth, States and Territories have agreed to implement nationally Harmonised WH&S Legislation.

What does this mean for you?

This will bring much of the rest of Australia’s states into line with the QLD regulations. The Act, to be implemented next year, whilst largely similar to the current Queensland Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995, there are a number of important differences that need to be taken into account.

Changes in Business legislation

  • There will be a “wider” scope in the meaning of the definition of “workers”. This is and will now be clearly stated to cover all forms of people carrying out work.
  • There will be the introduction of phrases such as P.C.B.U.
  • The requirements to have level of controls to minimise risk in business will NOT have a number of staff level as we have had in the previous Acts and Regulations.
  • Business operators must do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate or minimise risk to health and safety.
  • Company directors will have a positive and proactive duty to exercise due diligence. This represents a shift away from attributed liability (i.e. being held liable for contraventions by the company) and requires directors to:
    • acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of health and safety matters
    • gain an understanding of hazards and risks associated with the company’s operations.
    • ensure appropriate resources are available for use to eliminate or minimise risks from work carried out.
    • ensure appropriate processes for obtaining information about incidents, hazards and risks, and responding to them
    • ensure processes for complying with duties are implemented, e.g. reporting, consultation arrangements, training and instruction verify the provision and use of resources for the matters listed above.

Changes in the fine structure

Previously in the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 the largest sum of money an individual could be fined was $200,000 and for a corporation $1,000,000 and 3 years imprisonment. This has now been changed with the new Workplace Health and Safety Act to the largest sum of money an individual can be fined is $600,000 and for a corporation $3,000,000 and 5 years imprisonment. Increase of $400,000 for individuals, 2 Million dollars for corporations and 2 years in jail. There are now 3 categories of Offenses:

Category 1:

Recklessly exposes a person to risk of Death or Serious Injury/Illness = $3 Million Corporations; $600 000 Individuals; 5 Years imprisonment. Reckless = Intentional, wilful or grossly negligent

Category 2:

Serious risk of harm without Recklessness. = $1.5 Million Corporations; $300 000 Individuals

Category 3:

Fails to comply with OH&S Duty = $0.5 Million Corporations; $100 000 Individuals.

These changes along with others that directly impact Employers and Corporations will also have a positive effect on businesses that include the following:

  • Reduced costs for National Companies conducting business in multiple states of Australia
  • A consistent approach to Safety Standards and rights for employees across all states and territories
  • Reduced Government expenditure in developing and administering laws as they’re now essentially equal across the board.

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Workplace Health & Safety Consulting needs



Workplace Health & Safety Consultants

PO Box 678
Bribie Island QLD 4507
Tel: 07 3410 8482

Worplace Health & Safety Training and Audits

WH&S Services:

  • Safety Officers
  • Fire Safety Advisors
  • Risk Assessments
  • Seminars
  • Hazardous Material Management
  • Harmonisation Laws
  • Farming / Rural WH&S


HR Services:

  • HR Management
  • HR Audits
  • Staff/Team Assessments
  • Staff Surveys
  • Software Systems
  • Coaching Programs


Workplace Auditing Services:

  • Safety Management Systems (OHSMS AS4801)
  • Construction Audits
  • High risk safety work (SWMS) Audits
  • Traffic Management
  • Environmental Audits
  • Ergonomic Audits
  • HR Audits
  • QMS Audits


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