Expert panel to put work health and safety laws under the spotlight

Published Wednesday, 05 April, 2017 at 06:30 AM

Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Minister for Racing and Minister for Multicultural Affairs
The Honourable Grace Grace

The Palaszczuk Government’s best practice audit of work health and safety laws, procedures and policing is underway following the appointment of Tim Lyons as the independent reviewer, with the findings to be delivered mid-year.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the government was delivering on its commitment to carry out the safety audits, following a tragic series of workplace incidents in 2016.

“After last year’s tragedies at Eagle Farm and Dreamworld concerns were raised about the public safety matters in Queensland and the effectiveness of current offences and penalties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011,” said.

 “Two workers were crushed to death at Eagle Farm and four people lost their lives at a popular theme park due to a catastrophic failure of an amusement ride. We owe it to the families not only to find out exactly what happened, but to make sure it never happens again.”

The best practice audit will consider whether an offence of ‘gross negligence causing death’ and an increase in the current penalty levels as a stronger deterrent for non-compliance should be introduced.

At the moment, employers can be prosecuted for negligence, which carries maximum penalties of five years’ imprisonment and fines of up to $3 million for corporations, $600,000 for individual directors and $300,000 for others.

The terms of reference for this best practice review also ask Lyons to consider WHSQ’s effectiveness in light of contemporary regulatory practice. The scope includes all of WHSQ’s functions - inspections, investigations, prosecutions, enforceable undertakings, research, strategy and policy development, information and education and awareness campaigns.

Tim Lyons has more than 20 years’ experience in industrial relations having worked as an organiser, advocate, policy specialist and senior leader. He spent 14 years with the National Union of Workers and was the Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions for seven years. He’s also been a member of Federal Government boards and expert working groups on workplace relations, taxation, superannuation, procurement and industry policy. Tim was also appointed as an industrial relations expert to the 2015 Industrial Relations Legislative Reform Reference Group.

“Tim will be supported by a tripartite reference group which will include two technical experts and representatives from key organisations such as the Australian Industry Group, Master Builders Queensland, the Queensland Council of Unions, the Australian Workers Union, and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council,” Ms Grace said.

“There will also be input from other government agencies and interested groups.”

The findings and recommendations will be presented to the Government by the middle of the year.

Media contact: Martin Philip 0427 919 548