Release type: Media Release

Date:

Gillard Launches National OHS Review

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, today announced the commencement of a National Review into Model Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Laws.

Occupational health and safety regulation affects every workplace in Australia. At present, the Australian States, Territories and the Commonwealth all have OHS laws that aim to prevent workplace death, injury and disease.

The Rudd Government has committed to work cooperatively with State and Territory Governments to harmonise OHS legislation within five years of coming to office. Harmonising OHS laws will cut red tape, boost business efficiency and provide greater certainty and protections for all workplace parties.

In a significant step toward making the harmonisation of OHS laws a reality and given the importance of the task, the Government has appointed three eminent panel members to conduct a national review into Australia’s OHS laws.

Robin Stewart-Crompton will chair the panel. Robin Stewart-Crompton is a former Chief Executive Officer of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission who has continued to work in the OHS field as a consultant. His legal qualifications and extensive legal policy and OHS experience will bring perceptive leadership to the Review.

Barry Sherriff and Stephanie Mayman have also been appointed to the National OHS Review Panel.

As the lead partner of Freehills’ OHS law practice, Barry Sherriff has extensive experience in advising on OHS issues, with a focus on proactive strategies for compliance and accident prevention. Stephanie Mayman is currently a Commissioner in the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission and Chairperson of the Occupational Safety and Health Tribunal appointed under Western Australia’s OHS legislation.

Robin Stewart-Crompton and his team will review OHS legislation in each State, Territory and Commonwealth jurisdiction for the purpose of making recommendations on the optimal structure and content of a model OHS Act to apply nationally.

The panel will consult with a broad range of stakeholders and submit its final report to the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council by the end of January 2009.

Terms of Reference for the Review follow accordingly and are available on the National OHS Review website along with biographies of the panel members. http://www.nationalohsreview.gov.au/

National Review into ModelOccupational Health and Safety Laws

Terms of Reference

Background

1. The health and safety of Australian workers is a key concern of Australian governments at all levels. All workers have the right to a safe and healthy workplace and employers have the right to expect that workers and visitors to their workplaces will cooperate with occupational health and safety (OHS) rules.

2. OHS regulation affects every workplace in Australia. All States, Territories and the Commonwealth have OHS laws that aim to prevent workplace death, injury and disease. Industry specific laws covering workplace safety and laws regulating particular hazards, for example the transport and storage of dangerous goods, also exist in certain jurisdictions.

3. All Australian governments have taken a broadly similar approach to regulating for safer workplaces. The approach involves a principal OHS Act codifying common law duties of care, supported by detailed regulations and codes of practice, and a system of education, inspection, advice, compliance activities and, where appropriate, prosecution.

4. Despite this commonality, there remain differences between jurisdictions as to the form, detail and substantive matters in OHS legislation, particularly in regard to duty holders and duties, defence mechanisms and compliance regimes, including penalties.

5. The importance of harmonised OHS laws has been recognised by the Council of Australian Governments, the Productivity Commission and the States and Territories in their work in this area to date.

6. The Australian Government has committed to work cooperatively with State and Territory governments to achieve the important reform of harmonised OHS legislation within five years. Following the recent meeting of the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council, all States and Territories have agreed to work together with the Commonwealth to develop and implement model OHS legislation as the most effective way to achieve harmonisation.

7. The model legislation will consist of a model principal OHS Act, supported by model regulations and model codes of practice that can be readily adopted in each jurisdiction.

8. Harmonising OHS laws in this way will cut red tape, boost business efficiency and provide greater certainty and protections for all workplace parties.

9. As the first step in this process the Australian Government has appointed an advisory panel to conduct a national review of current OHS legislation across all jurisdictions, and recommend to the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council the optimal structure and content of a model OHS Act.

Scope of the Review

10. The panel is asked to review OHS legislation in each State, Territory and Commonwealth jurisdiction for the purpose of making recommendations on the optimal structure and content of a model OHS Act that is capable of being adopted in all jurisdictions. The panel is asked to make its recommendations in two stages, to allow matters critical for harmonisation to be considered by the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council as a matter of priority (refer paragraphs 12 and 13).

11. In undertaking the review, the panel will:

a) examine the principal OHS legislation of each jurisdiction to identify areas of best practice, common practice and inconsistency;

b) take into account relevant work already undertaken in this area by the Australian Safety and Compensation Council and others (including international developments), and consider recommendations from recent reviews commissioned by Australian governments relating to OHS laws;

c) take into account the changing nature of work and employment arrangements;

d) consult with business, governments, unions and other interested parties, and invite submissions from the public and other stakeholders on matters relating to the review; and

e) make recommendations on the optimal structure and content of a model OHS Act that promotes safe workplaces, increases certainty for duty holders, reduces compliance costs for business and provides greater clarity for regulators without compromising safety outcomes.

12. The panel should examine and make recommendations on the optimal content of a model OHS Act in the following areas as a matter of priority, and report to the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council by 31 October 2008:

a) duties of care, including the identification of duty holders and the scope and limits of duties;

b) the nature and structure of offences, including defences.

13. The review panel should also examine and make recommendations on the optimal content of a model OHS Act in the following areas, and report to the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council by 30 January 2009:

a) scope and coverage, including definitions;

b) workplace-based consultation, participation and representation provisions, including the appointment, powers and functions of health and safety representatives and/or committees;

c) enforcement and compliance, including the role and powers of OHS inspectors, and the application of enforcement tools including codes of practice;

d) regulation making powers and administrative processes, including mechanisms for improving cross-jurisdictional cooperation and dispute resolution;

e) permits and licensing arrangements for those engaged in high risk work and the use of certain plant and hazardous substances;

f) the role of OHS regulatory agencies in providing education, advice and assistance to duty holders;

g) other matters the review panel identifies as being important to health and safety that should be addressed in a model OHS Act.

Principles for the Review

14. The review will be guided by the following principles:

a) an inclusive approach to the harmonisation process, where the concerns and suggestions of all jurisdictions and interested stakeholders are sought and properly considered;

b) that the development of model OHS legislation be accompanied by an increase in consistency of monitoring and enforcement of OHS standards across jurisdictions;

c) consideration of the resource implications for all levels of government in administering harmonised laws;

d) the observance of the directive of the Council of Australian Governments that in developing harmonised OHS legislation there be no reduction or compromise in standards for legitimate safety concerns.

Methodology and timeframe

15. The review will be undertaken by:

a) Mr Robin Stewart-Crompton – Chair

b) Mr Barry Sherriff – Member

c) Ms Stephanie Mayman – Member.

16. The advisory panel will be supported by a secretariat resourced by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. State and Territory governments may also provide practical support and assistance to the advisory panel.

17. The following timeframe will apply to the review:

Information gathering, research and consultation with key stakeholders

April – May 2008

Publish issues paper and invite submissions

May 2008

Provide a progress report to Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council meeting

May 2008 (expected)

Provide report and recommendations to Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council on priority areas outlined in paragraph 12 (duties of care and the nature and structure of offences)

31 October 2008

Provide report and recommendations to Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council on remaining matters

30 January 2009