7 Things to Know About WA’s Work Health and Safety Laws

24 November, 2022

There have been some recent changes to WA’s new Work Health and Safety Laws. As a business owner, it is important to keep up to date with any legislative changes.

Here are some Health and Safety laws that could impact your business.

1.As of March 2022, the Work Health and Safety Act 2020 will replace all previous laws around occupational safety and health

The aim is to bring WA workplaces under a single WHS Act.

2. The Work Health and Safety Act now has a definition for a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking.’ This is also referred to as PCBU and encompasses the following:

  • a sole trader (for example, a self-employed person)
  • each partner within a partnership
  • a company
  • an unincorporated association
  • a government department of public authority (including a municipal council)

If you solely own a business, you may be a PCBU as an individual. If are a partner in a business, you could each be individually and collectively a PCBU. Larger corporations and organisations will have what’s known as officers of the PCBU.

3. If you are a PCBU you are responsible for the health and safety of your workers

This means that where necessary, you will need to take action to eliminate risks to health and safety, within the realms of what is reasonably practical. In the case action is deemed not reasonably practical. you need to make sure those risks are minimised as much as possible. You may need to review the following to ensure you are carrying out your duty of care to the best of your ability:

  • Reviewing Strategic Business Objectives
  • Business Policy
  • The key resourcing decisions involved in running your business

4. The penalties for PCBU’s have been updated

If a workplace accident occurs resulting in the death of an individual, there could be substantial penalties for the PCBU’s. This is pertinent to circumstances where the PCBU knew the conduct could cause death or serious harm.

It is also important to note, the WHS Act voids insurance coverage for WHS penalties and imposes penalties for providing or purchasing this insurance.

Finally, the new laws have introduced “enforceable undertakings.” An example of how an enforceable undertaking may work as is follows:

  • A business may be able to give an enforceable undertaking should an offence under WHS laws occur. It is important to note this action is voided for a Category 1 offence or manslaughter
  • An enforceable undertaking is when a written commitment to do certain things in an agreed period and can be accepted or rejected by the Regulator. This is NOT an admission of guilt.
  • Should the Regulator accept the enforceable undertaking, the business would complete certain activities which need to be substantial and aim to deliver tangible benefits to the workplace, industry or broader community.

It is also important to note the new laws impose mandatory reporting on any workplace incident regarded as “notifiable incidents.” These may include serious illness, injury or death and dangerous incidents which might happen during the conduct of a business or undertaking.

5. The laws will be similar across Australia

The new WHS laws will be based off a national model which means all Australian businesses (excluding Victoria) will have similar health and safety obligations.

6. The new WHS laws will take time to implement

 The WHS Act has transitional arrangements which apply where duties are new or have changed a lot from what they were. This is to help businesses adapt to the new changes.

Businesses that require a high-risk work licence as part of the new WHS laws, have been given a 2-year transition period.

7. If you need help understanding any of the new WHS there is help

Small Business WA have a new workshop to help you learn about the new laws. This workshop covers a range of topics including how to implement safety practices within your business, how to conduct an internal safety review and more about safety management systems and certification requirements. The cost has been reduced to $20 thanks to substantial government funding and you can learn more about it here.