The long awaited onboarding of the WHS model legislation in Western Australia may be closer to reality with the new Western Australian Labor Government in power.
Major developments proposed to WHS laws in WA as set out in the WA Labor 2015 state platform include:
- a maximum jail term of 20 years for senior officers of PCBUs for work related reckless or grossly negligent conduct, instead of five years under the current model WHS Act;
- parties “with an interest” (eg unions) should have the right to initiate a prosecution for breaches of the WHS Act and Regulations where a regulator has failed to do so;
- intent to investigate creating a single, cross-jurisdictional Work Safety and Health inspectorate encompassing the general, resource, and onshore sectors;
- implementation of legislation to provide for immediate entry into workplaces for properly trained and credentialed union officials to ensure compliance and to inspect and investigate suspected breaches of the WHS Act and Regulations; and
- a health monitoring regime for all workers exposed to dangerous materials and substances known to have long term health risks such as asbestos and radioactive isotopes for the life of the worker and that this be fully cost recovered by industry. Supported by annual full medicals for these employees whilst working in these industries and 5 yearly once they leave the industry for their whole life at no cost to the worker.
In NSW, the secretary of an industrial organisation of employees can bring proceedings for a Category 1 offence or a Category 2 offence if the regulator declines to follow the advice of the DPP to bring the proceedings (s230(1)(c) and (3) of the WHS Act 2011 (NSW)). The other states and territories of Australia do not make provision for the union to initiate proceedings.
If the “parties with an interest” clause in WA Labor 2015 state platform is enacted in WA, NSW and WA will be the only two jurisdictions where unions can initiate proceedings for breach of WHS laws.