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Three things about workplace safety laws every business must know

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HC Online | 12 Oct 2011, 12:00 AM Agree 0
New laws affecting health and safety in workplaces across Australia will be with us very soon. Robin Young and Nick Read outline why so it’s important that HR practitioners, managers and directors familiarise themselves with what’s in the offing and what they need to do to prepare.
  • Michael Boehm | 14 Oct 2011, 01:19 PM Agree 0
    The positive aspect about the "front end" approach (as indicated by the authors) to consultation is that this will inculcate a culture of safety where once the approach to safety may have been “check box safety” or a minimalist approach whereby safety was a question of what was the least one needed to do in order to be complaint. With exception of the obligations for safety placed upon the PCBU and Officers, the dynamic between the PCBU and Officer that is created by harmonisation is interesting and worth exploring. There are three points. (1) the PCBU is responsible for safety and for ensuring appropriate resources are available for safety; (2) Officers are responsible for ensuring that the PCBU meets their duty for safety, and (3) an officer may be convicted or found guilty of an offence under the Act whether or not the PCBU has been convicted or found guilty under the Act. The dynamic that is created between the PCBU and Officer is one where each is reliant upon the other to ensure their duty is met. Formal process involving monitoring and reporting will need to be revised to include systems to better verify decisions and delegations in order to demonstrate that one has taken all reasonable steps to ensure safety.
    Another party that ought to be considered seriously is the Inspector who is indirectly part of the consultation process (in the event there is disagreement about a safety matter). Consultation according to harmonisation legislation is such that a matter of safety discussed by the PCBU and Officer would be known also by the HSR, HS Committee, and worker. A matter of not known by the HSR HC Committee or worker in fact breaches the provisions for consultation. Note the duty to consult relates to any thing that might affect the health and wellbeing of a person. Given the above, if there was disagreement regarding a matter of safety between the PCBU, Officer, HSR, HSC or worker, the last recourse available to them is in fact the external person – the inspector.
    Inspector is part of the issues resolution process.
    Consider “taking reasonable steps” and “all relevant matters” and “issues resolution”. Note the inspector si part of the issues resolution. Given the above, does it follow that the final step, when taking all reasonable steps and considering all matters and there lingers still a concern for safety and that more could be done, is that the inspector should be called before one can say one did all things reasonable. This is not to suggest that an Inspector needs always to be called. What this suggests is that it is likely that an officer may not use their delegation as a defence where safety continued to concern an officer.
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