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Employment Law News December 2011

National OHS harmonisation: are you ready for the new regime effective 1 January 2012?

As foreshadowed in our previous issues, NSW and all other states except Victoria and Western Australia will introduce new Work Health and Safety legislation on 1 January 2012 as the laws for these states is harmonised across Australia. The new legislation should not greatly affect NSW businesses that already operate and manage work health and safety matters in a diligent and consistent manner. However, some industries or businesses may need to make some changes in regards to:

  • The shift in personal responsibility for the health and safety of all workers is now focused more on co-workers, supervisors ,and company directors (as before) 
  • Introduction of health and safety representatives
  • WHS entry permit holders will be required to give notice before entering a workplace under certain circumstances
  • The establishment of generic risk management provisions, including a hierarchy of controls, which will apply to all duties under the regulations
  • Residual current devices will only be required for hostile environments or hostile operations. These requirements will apply from 1 January 2013.
  • There are new requirements for licensing of asbestos assessors (normally occupational hygienists) and obligations on persons conducting a business or undertaking to use licensed asbestos assessors for air monitoring and clearance certificates when removing friable asbestos
  • Class A (friable) asbestos removal licence holders will be required to have a certified safety management system
  • There is no provision for pest management technicians or fumigation certificates of competency and no high risk work licensing classes for load shifting activities such as excavator and backhoe operation. However there will be a new licence class for reach stackers.
  • Certain demolition work must be notified to the regulator. NSW will retain its current licensing arrangements until demolition licensing under the national occupational licensing scheme commences (at least 2013).
  • Major overhaul and shutdown works of fixed plant, such as at power generation plants, will be subject to requirements in the construction chapter in relation to coordination of works by five or more persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) at any one time.
  • Provisions relating to chemicals will be based on the globally harmonised system for classification of chemicals, subject to a five-year transitional period. This will now extend to chemicals that are dangerous goods.
  • A new provision for PCBUs to provide for audiometric testing of workers who are frequently required to wear hearing protection to protect the worker against noise above the exposure standard. 
  • Notification of schedule 11 hazardous chemicals (dangerous goods) only when they exceed the manifest quantity, and thereafter only where there is a significant change in risk.
  • Registration of items of plant every five years, rather than annually

Further information can be obtained from www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx

Forum Law can advise and assist you with ensuring that you have a satisfactory risk management protocol in place to minimise harm to workers in your business and minimise the exposure of directors and staff to personal liability for failure to comply with responsibilities under the new OH&S regime.

Forum Law is an active member of several reputable law and industry associations. We have recently obtained ISO9001 accreditation.