Before 1 January 2012, each State and Territory in Australia had its own unique set of legislation for dealing with workplace health and safety issues. However, this legislation provided a myriad of challenges for businesses, particularly those working across different states and then also for workers who moved between states.
To make the laws more consistent across Australia, in 2012 the state and territory governments agreed to develop model laws (WHS Act and Regulations), on which they could base their health and safety laws.
Prior to 2012, workplace health and safety laws were known as OH&S laws. All states and territories have made new WHS laws based on the model laws, except for Victoria and Western Australia. This is why the Victorian and Western Australian acts and regulations still refer to OH&S (or OSH) instead of WHS.
The purpose of the model WHS Act 2012 was to provide for uniform health and safety obligations for businesses and individuals across Australia. In South Australia, the regulator of the South Australia Work Health Safety Act 2012 is Worksafe SA.
Many businesses can be quite hesitant when looking to improve and fully implement comprehensive WHS so that they are compliant under the legislation. This can often be because some measures are seen as being over the top and also because there can sometimes be a substantial cost involved in remedying the situation.
However, Guildford Consulting likes to provide the following example in response to a business’s concern in regards to the ‘cost factor’. Consider the scenario where a workplace needs fire extinguishers that met the required legislative standard and the staff also need to be trained in the use of the fire extinguishers.
The cost of updating the extinguishers and training staff may cost for the purposes of this scenario, approximately $10,000. What if this was not done and a fire occurred in the workplace? This could cost the business in terms of work cover insurance premiums and payment for rehabilitation and recovery for injured staff, plus it could cost the business its reputation, image and credibility.
WHS research has shown that it can cost upwards of $250,000 to rehabilitate a worker from a serious injury. If the business had paid $10,000 in the first instance, then they would now arguably be making a saving of $240,000. This is why Guildford Consulting believe a business needs to view its costs associated with WHS compliance as a business additive and NOT as a cost that there will be no return on.
Money well spent on WHS compliance saves a business money in the long term
WHS Legislative Duty of Care
In some workplaces, Management is often lacking in understanding of their responsibility under WHS legislation. Management are one of the key stakeholders that have a duty of care, under WHS legislation towards workers. The absence of that duty of care means the business is non-compliant and can face charges both under the WHS Act and the Criminal Act (for negligence and/or loss of life).
All businesses need to identify, evaluate and track their WHS Legal Requirements.
Guildford Consulting can create a customised Legal Register which will provide the details of the Acts (including the South Australia WHS Act), Regulations, Codes or Practice, Standards, License and Permits that are applicable to the specific business.