Lawyers warn on OH&S complacency


Lawyers are warning businesses be alert and proactive despite the States dithering on workplace safety harmonisation. <br /><br /> The country has effectively cleaved in two on the reform that had been agreed earlier this year by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania are dragging their heels to greater or lesser extent.

By Rob McKay | December 16, 2011

Lawyers are warning businesses against complacency as the States dither on workplace safety harmonisation.

The country has effectively cleaved in two on the reform that had been agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

The Commonwealth, NSW, Queensland, the ACT and the Northern Territory are either totally or all but ready for the January deadline.

However, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania are dragging their heels to greater or lesser extent.

Both Victoria and Western Australia have complained about a lack of information and sought a year’s delay, though a spokesman for WA Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien tells ATN: "Unlike Tasmania we don’t have a specific date for implementation.

"We are about to do our own regulatory impact statement.

"This will take up to six months."

Penny Stevens, a partner at law firm Middletons, says that those firms with business in more than one state, it is better to err on the side of caution and look to cover any vulnerabilities.

"When in doubt, take the best-practice approach," she says.

Holding Redlich lawyers echo the call for caution, especially for those with business cross borders.

"If your business operates across a number of jurisdictions which include a ‘harmonised’ jurisdiction, then you will be in the position of having to still comply with the new laws as well as the old ones," they say.

Before the Cabinet reshuffle, then Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans, announced that Safe Work Australia had developed transitional arrangements to assist businesses to move to the new harmonised arrangements.

Holding Redlich advises businesses take advantage of extra time of up to 12 months to understand how the new laws operate and what changes are required

Fresh to the portfolio, the new minister in charge, Bill Shorten, had yet to examine the situation but should do so soon, his spokesman says.

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