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More on the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

By Frank Higginson02 Apr 2012

After the detail in the last newsletter, this note focuses more on the practical implications of the WHS Act

The WHS Act creates a framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of all workers at work and all other people in a workplace. In doing so it has:

  1. introduced additional obligations of all people involved in a workplace (not limited just to employers and workers);
  2. introduced additional obligations on existing parties; and
  3. created personal consequences for non-compliance.

Virtually every person in a body corporate (including those who simply live there) have some responsibility under the WHS Act.

The feedback we have received from many strata managers is that some committees have adopted the ‘ostrich’ approach to the WHS Act. The bad news is that sticking your head in the sand won’t make this go away. It needs to be dealt with.

Collaboration is a large part of the WHS Act. All affected people are required to collaborate to ensure the health, safety and welfare of people within their PCBU responsibilities. It is not acceptable for any one party to simply point the finger at the other and tell them that ‘this is your job.’ The WHS Act requires everyone to work together to achieve a safe working environment for all concerned.

We are already advising committees and strata managers on a raft of WHS Act issues including:

  1. Reviewing by-laws for WHS Act compliance. What are the rules that apply to everyone?
  2. Providing advice on height limits for workers (which includes resident managers). What is acceptable without fall protection?
  3. Providing advice on the responsibilities of the resident manager with respect to the body corporate. We have not yet seen a management rights agreement that deals fully with WHS Act issues.
  4. Drafting specific policies and procedures to ensure compliance with WHS Act obligations in a body corporate context. These are the ongoing rules that will apply to the body corporate going forward (as example, vegetation management, storage of substances, maintenance of plant and equipment, induction of tradespeople etc).
  5. Providing advice on the set up and implementation of incident reporting systems that comply with the statutory framework.

The new laws represent a quantum shift for the strata management industry in terms of responsibility. However, once you understand the risks, and then create and implement appropriate processes to manage those risks, meeting your obligations is not difficult.

Let us know if you need help.