ACT Work Health And Safety Law Changes For Major Construction Projects

Amended ACT Work Health and Safety Tabled On June 7, 2018

With the advent of a new 2018 amendment, the ACT Work Health and Safety Act 2011 may undergo major legal changes for the construction industry. Assuming that the amendment passes the ACT Legislative Assembly, changes will become effective as of January 1, 2019. The associated WHS changes to construction obligations will affect all construction firms within the Canberra region engaged in project operations that exceed $5,000,000 in worth.

Scope of Change In ACT Work Health and Safety Laws

According to Rachel Stephen Smith, MLA, the Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations, the scope of the amendments stands as a positive and necessary response to ongoing construction safety research. The purpose:

  • Acknowledge that construction industry employers have not adequately established a method for communicating health and safety throughout their employee base
  • Clearly define the steps that will effectively improve the situation
  • AND Send a purposed statement of requirements to leaders within the construction industry.

The scope of change is as follows:

  • Affected construction firms will confer with every appropriate union that has a capacity to speak for employees on project site concerning development of a WHS work group
  • Make possible the appointment of WHS Representatives as well as the establishment of a WHS Committee
  • Compensate for cost and enactment of WHS training for WHS Representatives and WHS Committee Members, including payment for any related everyday expenditures as well as payment for missed work as a result of attendance to a WHS training session.

Failure to satisfy the obligations associated with the 2018 amendment may result in company-focused penalties as high as $50,000 as well as individual liability penalties as high as $10,000.

Problems Addressed By Changes In ACT Work Health and Safety Laws

Although some construction disputes law firms are not convinced that changes in ACT Work Health and Safety laws will effectively correct the safety problems, various suggestions for improvement do accompany the change obligations. They are as follows:

  • Give attention to problems associated with poor mental health, common within the construction workforce
  • Ensure that workers engage proactively within the WHS consultation process
  • Provide greater WHS support throughout the industry, especially to medium-sized construction firms
  • Ensure that the role of principle contractors includes WHS obligations assistance to subcontractors
  • Provide better quality supervision of workforce apprentices
  • Make a focused effort to reduce the bureaucracy and flow of paperwork that may hinder fulfillment of WHS obligations.

Advance Readiness For The 2018 Amendment Change Within The ACT Work Health and Safety Laws

In all likelihood, January 1, 2019 will bring about the confirmation of the 2018 amendment. And as always, this means more documentation, changes in existing documentation and ensuring an internal ability to keep up on all fronts.
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