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The Queensland Government has passed laws that strip health and safety representatives of their power to direct workers to stop unsafe work.

As reported in an earlier e-bulletin, the power downgrade is among a raft of changes in the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014.

The bill passed the Queensland Parliament last week, and the new laws will start on proclamation which will occur at a date to be determined.

In addition to removing the power of health and safety representatives to direct workers to stop unsafe work, the bill also provides for a number of other changes.

Among these changes, unions must give at least 24-hours notice before they can enter a workplace to inquire about a suspected WHS breach; a person conducting a business or undertaking no longer needs to provide a list of health and safety representatives to the work health and safety regulator; and codes of practice adopted in Queensland can be approved, varied or revoked without requiring national consultation.

For more details, visit the changes to the law.

Published on 10 April 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

Published on 27 November 2013:

After months of waiting, the highly anticipated Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2013 (WHS Amendment Act) was passed yesterday by both houses of the NSW Parliament. This gives the District Court jurisdiction over WHS prosecutions brought under the now repealed Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 (OHS Act).

This resolves issues encountered in Empire Waste Pty Ltd and Dean Baldwin v District Court of NSW and Inspector Brock, which challenged the jurisdiction of the District Court to hear matters that were previously heard in the Industrial Court of NSW.

The WHS Amendment Act also resolves problems raised in Attorney General for the State of NSW v Built NSW Pty Ltd, where proceedings were instituted by an unauthorised person, who was an employed solicitor of WorkCover and not the Inspector. Proceedings of this kind may now be brought by an Australian legal practitioner authorised in writing to represent an authorised person.

This Act ensures that various WHS matters are not quashed due to these technicalities. The process of clearing the vast backlog of 160 cases that have been held up will now begin.

Further information
For more information about the effect of these amendments, please see our previous alert or contact:
Carlie Holt, Partner  t: +61 2 9373 1412 | e: carlie.holt@sparke.com.au

Sparke Helmore Lawyers

NSCA are proud to partner with Sparke Helmore Lawyers. NSCA members receive exclusive discounted rates for expert work health and safety legal advice. For more information, please visit: nsca.org.au/sparke.

New resource sector safety laws are expected to be introduced in Western Australia in early 2015.

The legislation – to be known as the Work Health and Safety (Resources) Act – will cover mining, petroleum and major hazard facilities, says the WA Government’s resources website.

This single piece of legislation will be based on the model work health and safety laws developed through Safe Work Australia and the National Mine Safety Framework.

Meanwhile, the model Work Health and Safety laws are included in the WorkSafe WA Business Plan 2013-2014.

“WorkSafe (subject to government prioritisation) will implement the Harmonisation Framework across Australian workplaces and will ensure timely implementation of 2013-2014 budget priorities and initiatives,” the plan says.

For more details, visit the WA resources website and the WA Business Plan.

Published on 27 February 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

Queensland health and safety representatives are being stripped of their power to direct workers to stop unsafe work.

The power downgrade is among a raft of changes in the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, which was introduced into the Queensland Parliament earlier this month.

As previously reported in the e-bulletin, the Queensland Government has been planning these changes for some time.

Late last year the ACTU criticised the proposal to remove the health and safety representatives’ powers.

“Expecting workers to individually speak up about their safety concerns will ultimately mean that many will not speak up or could lose their job if they do,” ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said at the time.

Another controversial proposal included in the bill is for unions to give between 24 hours’ and 14 days’ notice before entering a workplace to investigate suspected WHS breaches.

This move was also criticised by the ACTU in late 2013. “Forcing unions to give 24 hours’ notice before visiting a workplace where suspected safety [breaches] are occurring would take pressure off employers to ensure workplaces are always safe,” Borowick said at the time.

The bill also allows for codes of practice adopted in Queensland to be approved, changed or revoked without needing national consultation, as currently required under the Queensland WHS laws.

For more details, visit the changes to the laws.

Published on 27 February 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

By Carl Sachs

The revised Australian Standard AS1657 for fixed ladders, platforms and walkways released in October 2013 plugs some serious holes. Guard rails made of rubber, for example, are now explicitly unacceptable.

While absurd, rubber guard rails technically complied with the 21-year-old AS1657 and the example shows just how sorely an update was needed.

Four big changes to AS1657

The biggest changes to AS1657 concern selection, labelling, guardrail testing and the design of fixed ladders.

Access selection
The new standard deals with the selection of access methods. It explains when to use different types of access, adopting a hierarchical approach consistent with the OHS legislation.

A new “Safe Ladder” appendix details how to be sure that ladders satisfy technical and ergonomic requirements for workplaces.

Fixed ladder design
The most significant set of changes to AS1657 concerns the design of fixed ladders. Over the 21 years since the standard was written, there has been an explosion in the sales of “cut to size” ladders, which led to several safety-related issues:

  • Rung spacing dimensions
  • Uneven rung heights at the base of ladders
  • Non-level landings
  • Fixings suitability to the structures
  • Unsuitable fitment of hand holds leading to potential safety hazards
  • Methods of mounting of cages and fixing to structures
  • Lack of suitable design criteria
  • Use of fall arrest systems

The revised AS1657 includes changes to design criteria, dimensions of rung spacing, mounting of cages, fixings to structures, inappropriate use of hand holds plus several other small issues.

The net result is a clearer and a safer set of requirements for users and manufacturers.  Additional costs to the industry are expected to be minor and will be offset by multiple benefits, including;

–        improved safety for users in terms of rung spacing, ladder strength and support fixings

–        increased rung design loadings that are now aligned with portable ladders

–        increased emphasis on the use of sloping ladders in the range of 60 to 75 degrees

–        provision for the use of complying fall arrest systems as an alternative means of fall protection

–        new ladder testing protocols as an alternative means of supplying compliant products

–        new provisions for single-stile ladders in specific applications.

Mandatory labelling
Identification assists building owners and asset owners to identify responsible parties and assist the workplace safety regulators with incident investigation and root cause analysis but was not mandatory under the old standard.

The revised standard mandates permanent product labelling to:

–        verify compliance of the installation with AS1657

–        identify the designer, fabricator, installer and certifier

–        provide for effective product recalls of faulty equipment

The labelling also allows manufacturers to deliver key information such as servicing requirements and special use instructions, will lift the accountability of suppliers, and assist with traceability and incident investigation.

Guardrail, ladder and staircase testing
The testing procedure contained in the old standard was seriously deficient for guardrail. In fact, a rubber guardrail would have passed because there were no deflection requirements.

The new standard, AS1657-2013, aligns with AS/NZS 1170.1 – 2002, requiring higher concentrated loads and line loads for guard railing systems. Importantly, it references standards to ensure the correct application of load factors and load combinations in the design and testing process.

New tests for ladders and staircases have been introduced to align with the testing regime for portable ladders.

Other changes
Updates to the standard also address the slip resistance of walkways and an alternative test method for stairways other than structural calculation. It is essential that there is a straightforward way of proving the performance of products because many of the items produced under AS1657 are manufactured by companies without the engineering resources to design by calculation.

In the case of mass-produced proprietary systems, the test method is used as an adjunct to design and is compulsory.

Step irons, too, are revisited. While they were covered by AS 1657-1992, additional provisions for sewerage applications were included in AS 4198-1994. EN 13101 is now extensively referenced.

A safer and easier to use standard for walkways, ladders and platforms
After 21 years, AS1657 was very outdated. This revision will provide increased certainty for manufacturers and specifiers of access equipment that can only lead to greater safety for users.

About the author:

Carl Sachs is the managing director of falls prevention specialist Workplace Access & Safety. He was a member of the committee responsible for the revision of  Australian Standard 1657: Fixed platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders – Design, construction and installation and represents the Facility Managers Association on standards committee AS1891 (Industrial fall-arrest devices). Carl’s business, Workplace Access & Safety, provides the full safety package for fall prevention – from risk assessments and system design through to installation, training, annual maintenance and certification.


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