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Legislation and Guidance

An expert panel has been established to review and recommend changes to Victoria’s work health and safety (WHS) laws.

The Victorian Government has appointed Dr Claire Noone, Cathy Butcher and Margaret Donnan, among others, to the panel. Noone, Butcher and Donnan have significant policy, regulatory, advocacy and industry experience between them.

The panel will examine WHS compliance, enforcement and promotion. Stakeholder consultation will be undertaken as part of the process.

A report on the panel’s findings is due to the Victorian Minister for Finance, Robin Scott, by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, WorkSafe Victoria has launched a new public awareness campaign about WHS aimed at employers.

“While the majority of employers understand why it is important to maintain a safe workplace, there are still far too many fatalities and injuries occurring every year,” said WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies in a media statement.

“Our campaign shows an employer dealing with the consequences—telling the family, supporting traumatised employees and dealing with a WorkSafe investigation.

“The campaign reminds employers that inspectors visit workplaces anywhere, any day, any time, and the message is a blunt one: If your workers aren’t safe, then neither are you.”

Amies added: “Last year, 20 Victorians lost their lives at work and more than 26,000 workers were hurt seriously enough to receive compensation. Already this year there have been four workplace deaths.”

For more details, visit the Victorian Government and WorkSafe Victoria

Published on 25 February 2016 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin enewsletter – available free every fortnight direct to your email. Subscribe online today

The mandatory role of chemical exposure standards in Australia is under review.

Safe Work Australia has recently released the discussion paper, The role of chemical exposure standards in work health and safety laws. The paper examines how the exposure standards could be reviewed.

Exposure standards set the airborne concentrations of chemical substances in worker’s breathing zones. Currently the standards are mandatory in all jurisdictions, the paper notes.

“Australia’s workplace exposure standards were first adopted from the standards set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) in the 1980s by the National Health and Medical Research Council,” the paper states.

“They were first published by Safe Work Australia’s predecessor the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC) in 1990. About 80 of the 644 standards were updated between 1995-2005 by NOHSC; however, the vast majority have not been updated since they were adopted.”

The paper is seeking feedback on the following: how exposure standards are currently used; the impact exposure standard compliance has on business and workers; the role exposure standards should have in the regulatory framework; and the processes that should be used to review and maintain Australia’s exposure standards.

Submissions close 5.30 pm on 18 December 2015.

For more detail, visit the paper

Published on 19 November 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin enewsletter – available free every fortnight direct to your email. Subscribe online today

Significant changes to New Zealand’s safety laws will take effect in April next year, following the passage of the Health and Safety Reform Bill through the New Zealand Parliament.

The laws are based on the Model Work Health and Safety laws in Australia and will be called the Health and Safety at Work Act.

However, before being given the New Zealand parliamentary green light, the Reform Bill was amended. This included exempting small businesses with fewer than 20 workers in low-risk sectors from the requirement of having a health and safety representative—even when requested by workers.

Also among the amendments, an officer of an organisation is now defined as a person who has a very senior governance role in the organisation: for example, a chief executive. In an attempt to make the role clear, the bill excludes those who advise or make recommendations to an officer.

Regulations and guidance material are being created to support the new Act.

For more details, visit the new laws

Published on 8 October 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin enewsletter – available free every fortnight direct to your email. Subscribe online today.

A bill has been introduced into federal parliament to stop employers from leaving the Comcare scheme without contributing to the cost of current or future workers compensation liabilities.

The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment (Exit Arrangements) Bill 2015 enables Comcare to set and collect “exit contributions” from former Commonwealth authorities and successors of former Commonwealth authorities before they leave the Comcare scheme. In addition, it can set and collect ongoing regulatory contributions from employers or successor bodies that have left the scheme.

The bill also provides for employees who are injured before their employer leaves the Comcare scheme to continue receiving rehabilitation.

Among other amendments, the bill clarifies that premiums for current Commonwealth authorities and entities should be based on the principle that current and prospective liabilities should be fully funded by Comcare-retained funds.

For more details, visit the bill

Published on 12 March 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin

Changes to Comcare’s workers compensation and self-insurance eligibility laws have passed the House of Representatives and are now in the Senate.

As reported in an earlier Safe-T-Bulletin, the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 was introduced into the House of Representatives in March this year.

In May the bill was referred to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee, where in July the Government members recommended that the bill pass and the ALP and Green members rejected it.

Following debate in the House of Representatives last week, the bill was passed and is now being debated in the Senate.

As indicated in the earlier e-bulletin, under the bill, Comcare will no longer pay workers compensation for injuries that occur during recess breaks away from an employer’s premises.

Nor will it pay compensation for death or serious and permanent impairment if the person killed or injured engaged in serious and wilful misconduct.

The bill also removes the need for the Minister of Employment to declare a corporation’s eligibility to be granted a self-insurance licence. Corporations can go straight to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (SRCC) to apply for the licence. Nevertheless, the Minister can still direct the SRCC.

Corporations that are operating in two or more jurisdictions, and meet the workers compensation obligations in these jurisdictions, can apply to join the Comcare scheme. Also, group licences can be granted to related corporations.

Corporations granted a self-insurance licence will also be covered under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

For details visit the bill

Published on 4 December 2014 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin

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