Following from the recommendations of the Best Practice Work Health and Safety Review, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) recently released a new Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Policy (the Policy). The Policy is framed to provide a detailed and systematic statement of how the Regulator will deliver increased Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) compliance measures. The Policy aims to enable WHSQ to use ‘credible deterrents’ to stop duty holders contravening work health and safety legislation.
The implementation of the new policy will involve the Regulator identifying priority safety risks, looking at the duty holder’s history of non-compliance, the degree of safety risk and the availability of safety guidance material. The Regulator’s priority list will be available on the Worksafe website soon we understand. Inspectors will have a greater focus on these priority areas when conducting safety visits.
The Policy has a major focus on ensuring duty holders comply with ‘Approved Codes of Practice (ACoP)’, also published on the Worksafe website.
The Policy highlights the deterrent effect of increased WHS sanctions such as infringement notices, prosecution and licence suspensions, cancellations or amendments. There are currently 240 infringement notice offences, but the Regulator will periodically identify priority areas of enforcement within these, reflecting prevalent and emerging health and safety risks.
Duty holders should expect increased:-
o ‘hard compliance’ enforcement measures such as prohibition notices, improvement notices and electrical safety protection notices; and
o without prior notice workplace visits by WHSQ inspectors at the initiative of WHSQ compliance campaigns or state-wide ‘safety blitzes’.
In respect of WHSQ safety blitz visits, Inspectors will only give prior notice of these visits where advance entry notice would not compromise the purpose of the visit.
The Policy urges duty holders to develop ‘sustainable systematic management’ systems which place higher safety control on the management of workplaces. The Policy states that Inspectors can use these systems to assess workplace risks, and where the systems are not complied with, can use enforcement options to secure compliance. Improvement notices will now be given for ‘systematic management failure’ of a workplace.
We expect the Policy to create a practice by Inspectors tilted towards the issuance of significantly more enforcement notices rather than so called soft regulatory practices like education and warnings. We expect improvement and prohibition notices to play an increased evidentiary role in any subsequent prosecution litigation. In other words, the notices will be used as evidence of the duty holder being aware about the particular safety issue and allegedly failing to take action in time to prevent a serious incident (click here to see an example).
If you have any questions in relation to this alert, please contact Matthew Smith or Damian Hegarty.
Level 36, 123 Eagle Street, Brisbane QLD 4000
T +61 7 3013 2700 F +61 7 3003 0788