This is the Government’s response to the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety.
This reform includes an overhaul of the law creating the “Health and Safety at Work Act” which will replace the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. Hazardous Substances and new Organisms Act 1996 and the Accident Compensation Act 2001 will also be amended. The new Health and Safety at Work Act and the first phase of regulations are expected to come into force by 1 April 2015.
The new Act will be based on the Australian Model Work Health and Safety Act with necessary modification.
The Act will impose a Primary Duty of Care on a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers and other people associated with the work carried out by PCBU. It imposes a due diligence duty on Officers of PCBUs to ensure the elimination or minimisation of risks to the health and safety of workers. Duties are also imposed on workers and other people in workplaces.
The proposed law will create a due diligence duty so that those in governance roles must proactively manage workplace health and safety. Directors and other officers of a PCBU will be required to exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU complies with its duties.
Failure to comply with a due diligence duty could result in prosecution and a fine, the maximum level of which would be determined by whether or not the officer’s failure exposed a person to a risk of death or serious injury or illness.
There will be a new tiered liability regime for penalties and a significant increase in the maximum penalty levels to sanction and deter duty holders from breaching their workplace health and safety duties. The use of graduated categories of offences and penalties will provide guidance to the Courts about appropriate fine levels.
An officer would only face a term of imprisonment if recklessness was proven. i.e. proof is required that dangerous consequences would or should have been foreseen, together with continuation with the course of conduct regardless.
Please note Statutory Liability Policies do not cover fines under the Health and Safety (At Work) Act, but does include Defence Costs and Reparation Costs.
All other Acts included under the policy cover Fines, Defence Costs and Reparation Costs.
We will keep you abreast of developments over the coming months.