Insights from Williams + Hughes
Work Health & Safety Update - Increased Penalties Passed in Western Australia
Post by Leanne Allison, Special Counsel | Posted 5 months ago on Monday, December 17th, 2018

On 3 October 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA) and the Mines Safety and Inspection Amendment Act 2018 (WA) (collectively the Acts) came into effect, which significantly increased the current penalties for work health and safety offences in Western Australia. 

The new penalties are intended to provide a real incentive to comply with workplace safety laws and ensure penalties meet community expectations. The most significant penalty increases include:

  • by a corporation (for a level 4 offence) up to $2.7 million for a first offence and $3.5 million for subsequent offences;
  • by an individual (for a level 4 offence) up to $550,000 plus up to 5 years imprisonment for their first offence and a penalty of $680,000 plus up to 5 years imprisonment for subsequent offences;
  • by an employee (for a level 1 offence) up to $50,000 for a first offence and $60,000 for a subsequent offence.

The maximum penalties are consistent with the national model Work Health and Safety Act (WHS) plus a 14% increase for inflation, meaning WA now has the highest maximum penalties for workplace health and safety offences in Australia.

Upcoming changes - Work Health and Safety Bill

On 12 July 2017, the Western Australian Government announced the development of a  modernised Work Health and Safety Act for Western Australia which is based on the WHS. This Act will replace three Acts, the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 and Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Safety Levies Act 2011. In July 2017, Commerce and Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston formed a ministerial advisory panel to advise on the development of a new and improved WHS Act, based on the national model WHS Act. The public consultation period closed on 31 August 2018. The WHS Bill is not expected to be introduced to State Parliament until mid-2019.

What steps should employers be taking

In light of these increases employers should ensure: 

  • strict due diligence standards are imposed and met;
  • they are taking so far as reasonably practicable, steps to eliminate the risks people are exposed to by reason of the operations of the business;
  • there are regular and updated training programmes implemented for managers and employees; and
  • insurance policies are reflective of the new penalties imposed

If you’d like to better understand what these changes mean for your business, please contact Leanne Allison, Special Counsel.

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