Health and safety reforms

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Reform to health and safety rules has taken a significant step forward with the Health and Safety Reform Bill. Introduced to parliament on 10 March 2014, the Bill is currently before the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee.

The legislation is expected to be enacted by the end of 2014 and, if so, will come into force in April 2015.

The main purpose of the Bill is “to provide a balanced framework to secure the health and safety of workers” by “protecting workers and other persons against harm to their health, safety and welfare by eliminating or minimising risks arising from work, or prescribed high risk plant”.

The allocation of duties and the regulatory framework will now be focused on those who are in the best position to control workplace health and safety risks to keep them as low as reasonably practicable.

The duties will fall on “persons conducting a business or undertaking” (PCBU) rather than in the Health and Safety in Employment Act context of duties falling on “a person who controls a place of work”.  There is a subtle but significant difference between the two.

Whether or not a person conducts a business or undertaking is a question of fact to be determined in the circumstances of each case.

It is clear that the Bill is intended to reduce the number of incidents and that there will be close political interest in the area of health and safety to see if the goals are achieved.