Page 2923 - Week 08 - Thursday, 25 June 2009

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The Work Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 further refines the Work Safety Act 2008 and provides for the necessary consequential and transitional arrangements to enable its commencement on 1 October 2009. As is usually the case when a significant piece of legislation is implemented, amendments to other acts are needed to ensure consistency in both terminology and policy terms. Most importantly, this involves formally repealing the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989 to allow the Work Safety Act 2008 to replace it.

The bill also repeals schedule 3 of the Public Sector Management Act 1994. Schedule 3 provided a range of work safety obligations for the public service. The repeal means that public and private sector employers in the territory will all be required to comply with one work safety regime. The bill provides that various appointments and arrangements under the existing OHS Act continue when the new one commences.

These amendments include transitioning aspects of the current regime to the new regime such as the various codes of practice, appointments of current OHS Council members and the OHS Commissioner. Existing workplace arrangements, including health and safety representatives and health and safety committees, will be transitioned to become work safety representatives and work safety committees when the new act commences. The bill also ensures that enforcement and compliance action, such as prohibition notices, issued before commencement, will remain valid into the new regime.

I will now outline briefly some of the further important aspects of the bill that are the result of ongoing consultation with stakeholders, and ongoing review and assessment of the legislation since its passage. The bill proposes to insert the word “workers” into the central safety duty that applies to people who conduct a business or undertaking. This will put beyond doubt that the central safety duty is owed to workers, as well as other people at the workplace. The bill ensures the labelling in the act is consistent by changing references to “health and safety representatives” and “health and safety committees” to “work safety representative” and “work safety committee”. This reflects the approach of the act in general. The bill also further clarifies the reporting requirements when a serious event or dangerous occurrence happens. A number of events incorrectly fall within the current definition in the Work Safety Act 2008. The proposed amendments ensure that the events listed are connected with the notion of risk of serious injury or death.

The act currently provides an exception to the flexible mechanisms for workplace consultation arrangements. The Chief Executive of the Department of Justice and Community Safety may direct an employer for a work safety committee to be established. The bill proposes to further extend this exception by providing that the relevant chief executive may direct all employers across a specific industry to establish a work safety committee where the work performed is hazardous and a committee will improve work safety. The bill also proposes key changes to the existing confidentiality provisions that enable the sharing of protected information within the Office of Regulatory Services and between the territory and other jurisdictions.

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