Patricia Flores, OHS consultant, Architecture & Access

Work Health and Safety laws – one year in

Harmonised Work Health & Safety (WHS) legislation introduced across Australia in January 2013 aimed to make laws clearer and easier to follow.

Patricia Flores, OHS Consultant and Safety in Design specialist at Architecture & Access, explains why people must be careful to ensure they fully understand and meet their obligations under the laws.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Regulations and Codes of Practice extended around the country over one year ago. However, differences remain in Western Australia and Victoria which apply their own state-based laws.

Western Australia is preparing to enact ‘harmonised’ legislation identifying four key components of the WHS Act 2011 that will not be included: reverse onus of proof in cases of discrimination, union right of entry, penalty levels and cease work.

In Victoria, WorkSafe continues to enforce the OHS Act 2004 and the OHS Regulations of 2007. This means there are no changes in Victoria and Victorian workplaces still refer to Victoria’s Compliance Codes and guidance material for information about how to comply with these laws.

The WHS Act 2011 is not significantly different from the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety OHS Act or the proposed WA legislation, however there are some differences which mean that Victorian and Western Australian businesses trading with other states or territories need to take extra care.

For example, where a Western Australian or Victorian business trades interstate or with the Commonwealth, or has workers based outside the state, it may have duties under the WHS laws as they apply in the other jurisdictions. It is the responsibility of these Western Australian and Victorian businesses to ensure they are aware of the duties that apply.

Or, for example, if a Victorian-based company carries out design work on a building for a Commonwealth Government department or a Commonwealth licensee, then the Victorian company is required to comply with the WHS laws of the Commonwealth for the purposes of carrying out that design work, even though the building or workplace itself may be in Victoria.

Of particular interest to designers in all states and territories is the requirement to provide a written report to the person commissioning the design on the health and safety aspects of the design (a ‘Safe Design Report’ or safety report). This report must specify the hazards relating to the design of the structure and any control strategies recommended.

Clients in all states and territories also have a duty to safely commission structures. They must also consult with the designer on WHS and provide the Safe Design Report to the principal contractor.

The report must consider safe design throughout the buildings lifecycle from construction, maintenance and cleaning, use for the purpose for which it is designed to demolition at end of life. In Victoria, the Safety in Design report is not required to consider demolition or construction.

So while the new WHS laws generally do make it easier for people to comply with their duties because the requirements are largely the same across states and territories, some differences still remain.

It is the responsibility of the individual businesses to understand their duties under the laws that apply to them.

Architecture & Access are expert in WHS law and Safety in Design. We can assist with:

  • Understanding your duties under WHS law in all states
  • Independent facilitation of Safety in Design process
  • Risk management
  • Review of proposed design and documentation
  • Facilitation of risk review workshops and formulation of Safety In Design Risk Register
  • Stakeholder consultation
  • Design for the safety of workers during construction
  • Design for safe servicing and maintenance of the building
  • Design for safe demolition of the building
  • Monitoring and auditing
  • Safe design reports
  • Workplace health & safety support

Contact Patricia Flores at Architecture & Access for a conversation about your project or find out more about our services on our website.

For more information about Victoria’s OHS compliance framework, go the WorkSafe Victoria website.

For more information about the national model work health and safety laws, go to the Safe Work Australia website.

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