Page 3193 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 19 August 2008
undertaken on this aspect of the bill. There is agreement among employee and employer organisations that all workers should be consulted about work safety, and that as long as an appropriate method of consultation is negotiated, there can be a net benefit to business.
To balance the needs for all businesses to consult, the bill provides guidance on what meaningful consultation is, when employers should consult and how employers can consult. The bill provides choice and flexibility on the methods of consultation. Within the flexible framework, the bill allows for the use of traditional workplace consultative methods through health and safety committees and health and safety representatives. The operational aspects of these methods, such as issuing provisional improvement notices and emergency procedures, will be moved to the regulations. Assistance will be provided to industry through codes of practice and guidance material on their obligations under the bill and how to implement meaningful consultation.
I will now outline briefly some further important aspects of the bill. An express right of private prosecutions for unions and employer organisations registered along the lines of the common law position has been included in the bill. This will enable a prosecution to be commenced by a registered employee or employer organisation. The right of the Director of Public Prosecutions is reserved to intervene and take over or discontinue a private prosecution at any time. This express right of private prosecutions only applies to safety duty offences in the bill and does not include the industrial manslaughter offences in the Crimes Act 1900.
Organisations undertaking prosecutions will not financially benefit from the proceedings. Any penalties imposed by the court will be paid to the territory and will be dedicated to the promotion of work safety. These funds will be devoted to the promotion of better OHS practices through the office of the ACT Occupational Health and Safety Commissioner.
The general enforcement and compliance provisions have been updated to ensure application to contemporary work practices and arrangements. The bill provides for the production of documents or information held at locations other than those on which an alleged offence occurred. This is necessary in multi-site work arrangements, such as those in the construction industry and franchise arrangements.
As a model employer, the public sector is expected to set high standards of work safety. Therefore, the bill strengthens the public sector enforcement and compliance provisions. With the exception of prosecution, all other enforcement and compliance tools, such as prohibition notices and improvement notices, will be used. The compliance focus will be on rectifying the situation quickly. Agencies which fail to comply will be named and shamed. The bill will toughen reporting requirements and introduce appropriate review mechanisms.
The bill facilitates the reasonable exchange of information obtained by inspectors with other law enforcement agencies for the purpose of ensuring worker or public safety. The requirements for the notification of accidents have been streamlined and provision included to ensure the preservation of sites following serious events or accidents.