In a significant development, given the recent safety scandals involving the importation and use of asbestos-containing materials, the model WHS Act has been amended to make it mandatory for regulators to issue notices when they believe "prohibited asbestos" is present at a workplace, with maximum fines of $500,000 for those that fail to comply with a notice.
The national inquiry into workplace s-xual harassment has recommended the model WHS laws be amended to control psychosocial risks, in line with the Boland review, and that a WHS Code of Practice on s-xual harassment be developed.
After being flagged in the State budget more than seven years ago, Western Australia has finally introduced a mirror WHS Bill, which includes a two-level industrial manslaughter offence and a new duty of care for "WHS service providers". Meanwhile, the Northern Territory's industrial manslaughter laws have passed Parliament.
NSW has jumped the gun on the other harmonised jurisdictions by introducing a WHS Amendment Bill that increases fines through a penalty unit system, prohibits insurance against safety fines and facilitates work-related manslaughter prosecutions.
Western Australia has announced a two-level industrial manslaughter offence, revealed plans to beef up its safety inspectorate and released a draft WHS framework. Meanwhile, Victoria has introduced a new reckless conduct offence with $6.4 million fines for employers.
A new impact statement on the recent review of the national model WHS laws has warned that some recommendations could increase compliance costs with minimal safety benefits, including the recommendation to include the hierarchy of controls in the Act.
Organisations must reassess how they interact with WHS regulators and ensure officers are complying with their due diligence obligations, with the push for industrial manslaughter laws "sweeping the nation", according to a senior health, safety and security lawyer.
The South Australian Greens are introducing a WHS Amendment Bill to create the offence of industrial manslaughter with an "emergency" defence, while Federal Labor has hinted at plans to better harmonise WHS laws, in addition to introducing the offence nationally.