We can’t implement the model WHS laws on time’: WA Govt

26/9/2011

The West Australian Government has advised the Federal Government that it is no longer possible for the state to implement the harmonised Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws by 1 January 2012.

Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien has written to Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, seeking a reconsideration of the implementation date, on the grounds that Western Australia has ‘not been given enough time to analyse the full impact of the model Work Health and Safety Regulations’.

‘WA has been left with an impossibly short period of time in which to analyse the impact on businesses of introducing a new set of laws, and this could have a devastating impact on our small business sector in particular,’ O’Brien said.

‘Insufficient’ timeframe for implementation

The WA Government is concerned that the timeframe available for state workplaces to understand their new obligations and for the government to consider and incorporate stakeholder responses into the final set of regulations has become increasingly ‘insufficient’ because:

  • The final version of the model WHS Regulations are not yet available.
  • Last Friday, the public comment period on the regulations component of the draft harmonised mine-centric laws was extended till 7 October.
  • WA-specific transitional laws are yet to be finalised (therefore WorkSafe has yet to develop information for stakeholders).

WA Govt ‘not willing to burden state businesses’

O’Brien said the government is also concerned that small businesses with less than 20 employees — which account for 95% of all businesses in the state — are ‘set to incur significant costs in implementing the new laws without the benefits purportedly associated with national legislation’.

‘The bottom line is that the time remaining before the proposed implementation date of January 1, 2012 is far too short to enable WA businesses to understand the new laws and to conduct training,’ he said. 

‘The State Government is not willing to place such an unnecessary financial and operational burden on WA businesses.’

‘I have requested Senator Evans consult with all jurisdictions and delay implementation of the new laws, and I await his response.’

WA Govt to adopt WHS laws in altered form

Although it is expected to enact the key provisions of the model WHS Bill, the WA Government has previously stated that it will not adopt:

  • the Bill’s significant penalty increases, which are ‘unreasonably punitive’ especially for small business operators
  • the Bill’s union right of entry (ROE) provisions — ROE for OHS purposes ‘is already provided for under the IR Act 1979’, and duplication of those provisions ‘could ultimately result in confusion and inconsistencies if amendments are made to either Act’.
  • the Bill’s empowerment health and safety representatives (HSR) to direct the cessation of work, they believe is unsafe — ‘this decision should remain with the individual worker and not be placed upon a HSR’. 

WorkSafe WA has published Frequently asked questions — harmonised OSH laws, which includes an outline of the state government’s current stance on the harmonised WHS laws.

According to ACCI, the WA Government’s revised version of the harmonised WHS legislation may not be introduced into Parliament until December 2011.