New Work Health and Safety Bill announced for WA

By Saul Harben, Anna Casellas

03 Aug 2017

There will be a two-year consultation period on the WA Work Health and Safety Bill.

The new WA State Government has green-lighted the development of a Work Health and Safety Bill, which will bring Western Australia's occupational, health and safety legislation into line with the rest of the States and Territories other than Victoria.

This announcement marks the start of a lengthy consultation period with stakeholders in which the Bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament two years from now.

A national approach

The Bill will be based on the national Work Health and Safety Act, providing consistency across Australia in OHS legislation.

It will replace the following Acts:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984;
  • Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994; and
  • Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Safety Levies Act 2011.

To cater for WA's unique conditions, the Bill will also be supported by industry specific regulations. 

The resources sector will continue to use a risk-based approach, while the petroleum and major hazard facility industries will continue to operate under a safety case approach.

Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations, Bill Johnston, has said the current OHS legislation in WA is 30 years old and out of date. The announcement of the new Bill also comes more than five years after all Australian States and Territories, with the exception of WA and Victoria, adopted uniform OHS laws.

WorkSafe Parliamentary Inquiry

The announcement of the new Bill is not the only current development in WA OHS law, after a public inquiry into the State's OHS regulator, WorkSafe, was announced at the end of June. The inquiry will consider, among other things, WorkSafe's performance against the objects of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Chairwoman of the inquiry, Adele Farina, noted there have been 315 work-related deaths in WA since 2001 and stated that the inquiry will:

  • review the adequacy of existing OHS laws;
  • review WorkSafe's processes and resourcing; and
  • make recommendations aiming to improve safety in the workplace.

What happens next?

At this stage, the Bill is not expected to be introduced to state parliament until mid-2019, allowing a lengthy period of consultation with stakeholders and the community.  However, the development of the new Bill, along with the parliamentary inquiry into Worksafe, will see a complete overhaul of WA's OHS laws which will impact on all businesses within WA. 

If you have any questions about how these reforms are likely to affect your business, or are interested in making submissions in relation to these reforms, please contact the Clayton Utz Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety team.  

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.