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Health and Safety Regime Changes

Written by Glenn Finnigan, PARTNER on March 10th, 2014.    

Review of the current regime

Following the recent publicity surrounding the Pike River tragedy and the Forestry Industry’s record, the Government has begun to implement its plan for a significant overhaul of the Health and Safety legislation.  The Health and Safety Reform Bill is based on the current Australian position and will is before a select committee who are currently considering the submissions which interested parties have made.  It is expected that the new law will be passed around December 2014 and in effect by April 2015.

In this article, we have highlighted a few of the key changes set out in the bill.  We think that organisations should be able to avoid falling foul of the changes with careful planning and an understanding of their new requirements.

Key changes

A major change to the current regime is the coverage.

The duties in the framework are owed by Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs).  This captures not only employers but Contractors and a range of employment-type relationships.  The PCBU concept is not limited to for-profit businesses.  A “Worker” is also defined as someone who carries out work in any capacity for a PCBU, which encompasses a large variety of people.
The core duties of a PCBU are to: 

  • Ensure so far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of workers engaged by or caused to be engaged by the PCBU while at work.
  • Ensure so far as reasonably practicable that the health and safety of workers whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by the PCBU.
  • Ensure so far as reasonably practicable that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out in the conduct of a PCBU’s business.

The risk of falling foul of the new duties extends beyond just the company/body which constitutes the PCBU.  Directors, CEOs, Senior Managers (Partners of law firms) and other officers of the PCBU owe a positive duty to ensure it complies with its obligations.  This is significant because currently an officer can only have liability if they are actually responsible for the failure to comply or acquiesced in that failure.  The absence of a requirement of positive action by directors and senior managers of corporates in relation to health and safety was seen as a problem with the current law which the Bill seeks to address.
Further, the new framework sets up a hierarchy of penalties which are significantly higher than the current levels.  Bodies Corporate can be fined up to $3 million and individuals up to $600,000, 5 years in prison or both.
The new framework also expands a PCBU’s duty to consult with employees and allow them the opportunity to participate in the management of health and safety issues.  This extends beyond just employees to sub-contractors and other connected parties.

Keep safe!

Jackson Russell is experienced in dealing with all aspects of employment and health and safety law.  As with the current regime, good compliance will be essential to minimise the risks of breaching the new requirements.  We will be providing further information on the law reform as the Bill progresses through Parliament.

If you would like further information about the new or current Health and Safety regimes, or require advice on anything related to employment matters, please contact your usual Jackson Russell advisor or our Employment Law specialists.

The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice.  It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.
All rights reserved © Jackson Russell 2014

Glenn Finnigan Publications2
Glenn Finnigan,

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