The Federal Government has been urged to use its "deciding vote" to add industrial manslaughter provisions and s-xual harassment controls to the national model WHS laws, while Comcare has released a series of guides on preventing workplace s-xual harassment and implementing early intervention programs for injured workers.
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.
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.
A judge has upheld a $9,000 fine in the first (and "somewhat curious") prosecution involving the WHS duty to "consult workers". He also disagreed with a landmark finding that Queensland's WHS fines should be consistent with those in the other harmonised jurisdictions.