Latest changes to WHS laws - Oz Health Safety and Training

Latest changes to WHS laws

April 18, 2024 Peter 0 Comments

December 2023

Increased penalties for offences under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) came into effect on 15 December 2023. The new amounts, and a range of other measures, are included in the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023 that passed parliament earlier that month.

The changes increase penalties for the first time since the WHS Act came into effect, and provide for the amounts to be indexed to the Consumer Price Index for ongoing annual increases.

The legislation amends the WHS Act to include:

  • Significant increases to penalties for Category 1 offences:
    • $15 million for a body corporate or the Commonwealth (previously $3 million)
    • $3 million for a person conducting a business or undertaking or an officer (previously $600,00)
    • $1.5 million for any other person (previously $300,000).
  • And an increase to all other penalties in the WHS Act and WHS Regulations. For example, Category 2 and Category 3 penalties are now $2,090,000 and $700,000 respectively (previously $1.5 million and $500,000).
  • New criminal responsibility provisions for bodies corporate and the Commonwealth.

The increased penalties and indexation were key recommendations of the 2018 review of the model WHS laws and apply to both the WHS Act and Regulations.

New criminal responsibility provisions also promote accountability for bodies corporate and the Commonwealth for breaches of work health and safety duties. The changes mean that the conduct of officers, employees and agents acting within their actual or apparent authority (defined as ‘authorised persons’), and/or the board of directors for a body corporate, can be attributed to a body corporate.

New sections 244A and 244B of the WHS Act also allow for aggregation of conduct. This means the same individual would not need to have engaged in the relevant conduct and also hold the relevant state of mind in order to prove an offence against a body corporate.

Further amendments include:

  • Creating a new offence of industrial manslaughter for causing a workplace death of an individual through negligent conduct or recklessness, taking effect from 1 July 2024.
  • Establishing a Family and Injured Workers Advisory Committee by the end of 2024 to advise the Minister and Comcare on the support needs of those affected by a serious workplace incident and help inform on relevant Comcare policies, practices and strategies.

Information taken from WHS laws are changing | Comcare 18/04/2024.

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