The harmonisation of the nine different occupational health and safety (OH&S) laws across Australia into one national set of laws [Work Health and Safety Act 2011] will happen on 1 January 2012, although it is likely that Victoria and WA will delay the introduction probably until 1 January 2013.  Still, you must be ready for this!

How will the OH&S changes affect you?

  • There will no longer be a reliance on the traditional “employer” and “employee” relationship in determining who owes a duty of care and who is entitled to OH&S protection.  All “persons conducting a business or undertaking” (PCBU) will now hold the primary duty of care.
  • A PCBU includes an employer, corporation, association, partnership, sole trader and certain volunteer organisations.  A charity or Not-For-Profit (NFP) that employs anyone will be included in the concept of PCBUs.  PCBUs must provide the highest level of protection to workers, customers and visitors that is reasonably able to be provided.  You need to identify who is a PCBU in your organisation.
    Work Health and Safety laws are being harmonised into one national set of laws
  • The word “employee” has been replaced by a broader definition of “worker” which even includes volunteers.  Who are the workers in your organisation?
  • Officers” in an organisation will have a positive personal obligation to ensure health and safety as far as reasonably practicable, as well as a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure that a PCBU complies with the new legislation.  Who will have a role as an “officer” in your organisation?
  • There has been a substantial increase in penalties for breaches of the new legislation – fines of up to $3million for corporations and $600,000.00 and/or 5 years in jail for individuals.

What do you need to do?

With the new laws just around the corner it is vital that you start preparing now in order to ensure that you and your organisation are ready to comply with them!  You need to:

  • Determine who in your organisation will have a duty of care.
  • Undertake a legal gap analysis to identify where current policies, procedures and practices do not meet the new requirements, and revise your OH&S systems accordingly.
  • Provide training to your PCBUs, officers, managers and supervisors on their obligations and ensure that your workers are fully informed of their obligations.

These are far-reaching developments which impact all charities and NFPs.  They need urgent attention.