WA workers will be better protected by the modernisation of the state’s Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws, the McGowan Government has revealed.
The new laws will bring together WHS for general industry, mines and petroleum operations under single act.
Starting on Thursday, the laws recognise modern work relationships such as subcontractors and gig economy workers while also introducing the term “person conducting a business undertaking”.
Under the laws, anyone who engages a WA worker has a duty to protect their mental and physical health and safety.
The laws bring WA in line with other states and territories except Victoria, with companies that operate across the country now working with similar obligations and requirements.
Senior decision makers will be required to “exercise due diligence” to comply with the laws, ensuring that an organisation’s hierarchy is responsibility for workplace safety.
Meanwhile, industrial manslaughter laws will also begin with a penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
It will also include a $5 million fine for an individual and a $10 million fine for a body corporate.
Insurance will no longer cover penalties, ensuring that people conducting business are held accountable and responsible for financial penalties.
Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said the new laws were a boost to safety in WA workplaces.
“The new laws reflect the social obligations and responsibilities the community expects from companies and their senior management,” Mr Johnston said.
“The reforms that come with the new laws will most certainly further enhance workplace safety in Western Australia.”
Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA CEO Paul Everingham said the laws made safety a bigger priority.
“WA’s mining and resources sector puts health and safety at the forefront of all that it does, and we welcome these modernised laws that align our State with the majority of the country, Mr Everingham said.
“A lot of hard work has gone into these laws, with the pathway to today involving significant collaborative effort between government, unions, industry and many others.
“It’s particularly pleasing to see psychosocial health given explicit consideration within the new laws.”
Workplace safety advocate Regan Ballantine said the new laws were “of profound importance to each and every West Australian”.
Her son Wesley died at work when he was 17-years-old, killed in what she said was “negligent circumstances.
“It holds true for me, that had meaningful consequences been in place, when he innocently set off for work, he could still be here today,” Ms Ballantine said.
“These laws will help ensure that others never stand in my shoes, never suffer what I have suffered and never feel the fear that my son did when he fell to his death.
“It is now up to industry to live up to them.”