Health and safety reforms aim to strengthen worker protection and representation
Published Thursday, 30 November, 2023 at 01:21 PM
Minister for Education, Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Racing
The Honourable Grace Grace
- New legislation to give effect to recommendations from Review of Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- The proposed laws deliver on a commitment to ensure workers are effectively represented and protected
- Part of the Palaszczuk Government’s ongoing efforts to support workers
The Palaszczuk Government has introduced legislative reforms to Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act in State Parliament this week.
The proposed reforms seek to further strengthen Queensland’s already nation-leading laws when it comes to protecting the health and safety of workers.
The Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill will implement recommendations from the recent independent review of the state’s WHS Act.
This new legislation has a particular focus on recognising the important role of health and safety representatives (HSRs) in improving health and safety for workers.
The Bill includes provisions to ensure that HSRs have the right choose their own training provider along with proposed improvements to the ability of workers and their representatives to be consulted on WHS matters.
It also includes proposed improvements to election processes for HSRs and workgroups, while clarifying and extending the rights of entry permit holders to ensure that they are able to effectively assist workers regarding suspected WHS contraventions.
The Bill will also extend the most serious Category 1 offence dealing with reckless conduct to also include negligent conduct.
A streamlined dispute resolution process and the removal of some proceedings from the Magistrates Court to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission are included in the Bill’s provisions.
The Bill also clarifies rules on the representation of workers on health and safety matters.
Quotes attributable to Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace:
“The Palaszczuk Government has led the nation keeping workers safe, and our response to this independent and comprehensive review is another demonstration of that unwavering commitment.
“One of the WHS Act Review’s core findings was that safety performance is improved when there is worker representation in work health and safety matters.
“These changes will elevate the importance of businesses involving workers and their representatives to identify and resolve work health and safety issues.
“It’s essential that work health and safety issues are resolved quickly so workers and others are not put at risk.
“These changes to the WHS Act will ensure workers are effectively represented and, if issues cannot be resolved at the workplace, they can be dealt with through a streamlined dispute resolution process.
“To complement the improvements in this Bill it is my intention to commission an independent review of Work Health and Safety Queensland to ensure its activities remain contemporary and reflective of community expectations.
“Initial stakeholder consultation will commence this year and I anticipate the review will be completed in early 2024.”
Jacqueline King General Secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions representing around 400,000 Queensland union members said:
“These nation leading reforms are a positive step forward to ensure that Queensland workers safety is a key priority in every workplace through stronger consultation and powers and functions for Health and Safety Reps, and a more streamlined process to resolve WHS issues for Queensland employers and workers.
“The new laws will help drive better safety outcomes by focusing employers and workers on preventing the hazards and risks that harm workers and others, including physical and psychosocial hazards.”
The independent review of the WHS Act was conducted by Mr Craig Allen, Mr Charles Massy and Ms Deirdre Swan.
The Palaszczuk Government accepted, or accepted in principle, all 55 sub-recommendations from the WHS Act Review Report.
The Bill to amend Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 was informed by recommendations from the 2022 independent review of the WHS Act and gives effect to 35 recommendations. Work is ongoing in relation to the Review’s remaining recommendations.
Media contact – Martin Philip 0407 675 008