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What you need to know about the new Work Health and Safety Act

The NSW Government implemented a number of regulations governing workplace health and safety (WHS) just before Christmas, and legal experts are warning SMBs to pay better attention to the legislation and how it impacts their workplace and workers.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) and accompanying regulations and codes of practice provide further clarity regarding how the national Model Work Health and Safety Laws will be applied in the NSW jurisdiction, the team at Kemp Strang said.

“The Model Act was a framework for States to base their own WHS regimes upon. What we’ve got now are the detailed regulations as they relate to NSW, as well as some comprehensive Codes of Practice,” Kemp Strang partner Lisa Berton said.

Under the new laws, employers and anyone classified as a company ‘officer’, have a duty to ensure they understand the codes and regulations relevant to their business, and how they apply to their workplace and their workers.

Kemp Strang senior associate Ben Urry said although the regulations deal with areas like hazardous materials, asbestos, construction and diving work, there are some that apply to all businesses – regardless of industry.

These include:

  • Management of risks to health and safety. Not only set out in the regulations, this also forms a separate code of practice;
  • Workplace entry by WHS entry permit holders; and
  • Further information on consultation provisions, including a separate Code of Practice on WHS consultation, coordination and cooperation.

To bring your business in line with the act, Kemp Strang has put together the following tips:

  1. Visit www.workcover.nsw.gov.au to access the relevant WHS Regulations and Codes that have been released.
  2. Undertake an audit of your current systems. Even if you did one previously using the Model Act, it is a good idea to check that everything is in line, now the regulations are available.
  3. Get advice. It’s a good idea to obtain legal guidance, as well as consulting a WHS specialist to assess any practical as opposed to legal risks on the ground.
  4. Assess who is a company officer. The concept of an ‘officer’ isn’t always black and white, so it’s important to consider the definitions and responsibilities, and ensure the individual is aware of these liabilities. It’s also crucial to provide training for officers and directors. There’s a lot to take in now with the new regulations and codes of practice and they will be held responsible if something goes wrong.
  5. Keep up to date. There are still more codes to come throughout 2012, including on the hot topic of workplace bullying, so you’ll need to keep track of any developments.
Lorna Bretthttp://www.dynamicbusiness.com.au
Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on Twitter @DynamicBusiness