IMPORTANT: New WA Workplace Safety Laws Commenced on 31 March 2022

Western Australia’s new Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2020 and Work Health and Safety (General) Regulations 2022 are now in effect.

The new WHS laws have significant changes and impose a primary duty of care on the ‘person/s conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU) to reasonably ensure the health and safety of workers. Importantly, the definition of a PCBU also includes the vessel owners, all directors and partners.

As such, all PCBUs in a business need to be actively involved in ensuring safe systems of work are in place on your vessel, that crews are trained (especially in emergency procedures) and that you can demonstrate regular review of the safety systems, training process (especially new crew) and having carried out regular emergency procedure drills during the season.

A PCBU owes a primary duty of care to all workers in their business or undertaking if they:

  • engage or causes the engagement of workers to carry out work; or,
  • direct or influence workers engaged to carrying out work.

A ‘PCBU’ doesn’t necessarily have to be an individual and can include:

  • a body corporate (company) including directors and shareholders both individually, and collectively;
  • an unincorporated body or association;
  • a sole trader or self-employed person;
  • individuals who are in a partnership both individually, and collectively.

The new laws include ‘industrial manslaughter’ options that carry a maximum penalty of between five to 20 years imprisonment for an individual and a maximum $10 million fine for a body corporate. Other new aspects include increased penalties, prohibiting insurance coverage for WHS penalties and the introduction of enforceable undertakings as an alternative penalty.

Small businesses, including family fishing operations, all company directors and operators could face serious penalties for something they did not deliberately or knowingly intend. Employers and company directors could be jailed and/ or face bankruptcy for an offence that they had not anticipated an accident could occur.

Transitional arrangements to provide sufficient time for duty holders to adapt their safe systems of work have been agreed, but only for new laws which did not exist in the old legislation.

The government has taken the view that laws which are the same as those that existed under the old legislation will apply immediately the new Act commences in March 2022. That means inspectors will be making sure workplaces immediately align with most of the legislation.

To assist, Worksafe WA has released the following explanatory documents:

These guidance documents provide an overview of the structure of the WHS general regulations and aims to help business owners and operators identify what duties or rights are contained in each Part of the regulations.

You’ll find the full Worksafe overview document here.