Bill update

As reported in earlier articles on this blog, the Victorian Legislative Assembly has heard the second reading speech of the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019 (Vic) (the Bill) and passed the Bill on 14 November 2019.

The Bill was sent to the Legislative Council on 14 November 2019 at which time it received its first and second reading.  The Legislative Council heard that the Bill seeks to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) to provide for offences for workplace manslaughter and will provide for the establishing of the Workplace Incidents Consultative Committee, made up of family members of victims to advise on future reforms and initiatives. The debate on the Bill was then adjourned and is now listed to be heard on Tuesday 26 November 2019.

Psychosocial hazards and work-related stresses are amongst the most challenging workplace health and safety issues. In recent times, there has been an increased focus by WHS regulators on ‘mentally healthy’ workplaces. Organisations are expected to have appropriate systems in place to eliminate or reduce psychosocial hazards, such as bullying and harassment, to effectively respond to issues and provide safe and healthy workplaces.

On 24 June 2019, Safe Work Australia released a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) seeking feedback on the possible impacts of implementing the recommendations of the Marie Boland independent review of the model Work Health and Safety Laws final report (Report).

In February this year, Marie Boland (former Executive Director of SafeWork SA) delivered the Report which found the model WHS laws (the laws) are working as intended although further clarity was required to enhance the application of the laws across jurisdictions.  As a result, the Report contained 34 recommendations for reform, some of which we have discussed in our previous article.

The Consultation RIS covers all 34 Report recommendations. However, Safe Work Australia has expressed interest in gathering feedback on 12 recommendations that have “more than a minor impact” on stakeholders, or that require further information and analysis including:

  • introducing regulations dealing with psychological health;
  • clarifying workplace entry of HSR assistants and WHS entry permit holders;
  • providing HSRs with choice of training course;
  • providing a process for resolving disputes about WHS issues;
  • including gross negligence as an element of the Category 1 offence; and
  • introducing an industrial manslaughter offence.