How will the new safety laws affect your business – an industry approach With the public consultation period drawing to a close, the harmonised safety laws across Australia are one step closer to becoming a reality. With only nine months to go until the new laws commence operation, it is important to assess the impact of the new laws and whether your business is in a position to comply. Significant change for the information technology industry
One of the changes in the Workplace Health & Safety Act that businesses in the information and technology industry should pay particular attention to is the broader requirement to consult and coordinate. As there is now a duty on the “person conducting the business or undertaking” (PCBU) to consult with “workers” and not just “employees”, your business must now consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with its contractors and sub-contractors and their employees, who are directly affected by a health and safety matter. For example, if your business engages contractor or employees such as programmers or technicians to service clients at their premises, your business will now have a clearer obligation to consult with your clients on safety related issues that may impact on your contractors or employees. It will be important to ensure that your contracts reflect arrangements to deal with this obligation. The new Workplace Health & Safety Act will also introduce significant changes to the management of safety in Australia, including: * Duty of Care - an expanded duty of care on all businesses and undertakings * Leadership – a new positive duty on “officers” of businesses to ensure safety by exercising ‘due diligence’ * Reputation – an approach to enforcement through greater use of adverse publicity orders * Intervention at the business – greater avenues for intervention by unions and the regulator at your business * Shift in attitude – by the regulators and courts in adopting a “uniform” approach to investigation and enforcement We addressed these issues in more detail in the publication OH&S Harmonisation in November 2010. We also provided a User’s Guide to the practical aspects of the Workplace Health & Safety Act. New Regulations
In addition to the major changes taking place as a result of the Workplace Health & Safety Act, the draft Regulations also will implement significant changes impacting the information technology industry. In general terms, some of the areas that businesses operating in the information technology industry will need to consider are the following: * General Workplace Management – There are changes to the requirements for emergency plans and procedures, first aid and review of general workplace management measures. In particular, there is a duty to review general workplace management measures if: * there is a significant change to the workplace or work systems; * a risk control measure does not control the risk;
* a notifiable incident occurs; or
* a health and safety representative requests a review.
Importantly, there is a duty to also test emergency procedures and also to ensure that any visitor or consultant who is supplying their own personal protective equipment when visiting premises, uses that equipment and that it is suitable to minimise risks to the person’s health and safety. * Electrical Work – Requirements for controlling electrical hazards at the workplace, dealing with unsafe electrical equipment, testing and tagging and work on “live” energised electrical equipment are covered under the new Regulations. Any “live” work must be conducted in accordance with a safe work method statement and a safety observer must be present who is competent in emergency procedures. Importantly, residual current devices (RCD’s) will be required in all work places rather than just construction sites. The new requirements will also require retrofitting of existing buildings...