26 September 2023

New workplace rules to pay off with safety

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Worker rights and protections are to be expanded under new reforms to boost employer accountability and streamline enforcement.

Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt said the Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 would strengthen State laws and make workplaces safer.

“A key change in the Bill will ensure that labour hire workers have all the same rights and safety protections as other workers,” Ms Stitt said.

“Labour hire workers are employed by a labour hire company or agency and perform work at the worksite of a ‘host’ employer, often supervised by the host or their staff,” she said.

“Under current laws, the host employer does not owe labour hire workers the same health and safety duties as they do their own staff.”

Ms Stitt said the Bill addressed the gap by extending the definition of ‘employer’ and ‘employee’ in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 to ensure labour hire workers were considered employees of the host.

The Minister said the reforms would also prevent employers from dodging liability for breaching workplace safety laws by prohibiting contracts that insured or indemnified a person against paying monetary penalties under workplace safety laws.

“Such clauses undermine our strong workplace safety laws – including the new workplace manslaughter offence – by shielding employers from tough penalties and reducing their deterrent effect,” she said.

“Under the proposed laws, entering, offering to enter, or holding such a contract will attract penalties of up to $54,522 for individuals and $272,610 for businesses.”

Ms Stitt said the Bill updated powers for health and safety representatives and authorised employee representatives to take photos or videos to record suspected workplace safety breaches in real time, and enabled WorkSafe Inspectors to issue notices and reports electronically.

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