Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 09 Hansard (Tuesday, 19 August 2008) . . Page.. 3192 ..
The key to understanding the bill is the definition of “work safety”. Work safety means the health, safety and wellbeing of people in relation to work, and there are six objects underpinning the bill. They collectively aim to secure the safety of people at work. This will be achieved through the management of risk and the provision of an environment for workers that is safe and healthy, that protects them from injury and illness and provides for their physical and psychological needs.
Fostering cooperation and consultation between employers and workers and the organisations representing them is another important object. The bill also provides a framework for continuous improvement and progressively higher standards of work safety to take account of changes in technology and work practices.
The scope and coverage of the legislation has been extended to better capture contemporary work and employment arrangements. The outdated concept of “employee” has been replaced with a broader definition of “worker”, and people who have worker-like relationships will also be covered. This includes employees, independent contractors, outworkers, apprentices, trainees and volunteers who work in employment-like settings. The health, safety and wellbeing of all workers are covered by the legislation. I emphasise that the intention of the bill is to cover only those volunteers who work in employment-like settings. So this does not cover, for example, the vast army of parents who help out with weekend sport.
Today’s workplaces are not isolated; they each have potential to generate risks to workers in other workplaces. The bill expands the number of duty holders to ensure that those who impact safety are responsible for their actions. The safety duties have been extended and clarified to ensure responsibility attaches to those who control the generation of risk and who are in a position to eliminate or minimise the risk.
This approach is balanced and not absolute. Duty holders are only responsible for matters over which they have control and only owe a duty to the extent of that control. The principal duty holder is a “person conducting a business or undertaking”. This includes employers, principals, head contractors and franchisees. Additional upstream duty holders, such as building designers, designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of products used in the course of work are also covered, but, again, only to the extent of their control of the generation of risk.
The bill emphasises the importance of risk management by integrating systematic risk management principles into the bill. These principles require duty holders to eliminate or reduce risk as far as reasonably practicable and to afford the highest level of appropriate protection. Priority is given to the elimination of hazards and the control of risk at the source through safe design of workplaces, systems and items used for work.
Based on the recognition that worker input and participation improve work safety performance, the bill will place a general duty on all employers to consult all workers on matters that may affect their health and safety. The duty to consult will now apply to all employers regardless of the number of workers they have—a significant departure from the existing act. Considerable consultation and analysis have been