WA health safety bill increases employer penalties

The Western Australian Government has passed its Work Health and Safety Bill through the Legislative Council.

The bill, which includes a maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter cases to be 20 years imprisonment, will be sent to the Legislative Assembly for final vote, which is expected on November 3.

Other aspects of the bill include increased penalties, prohibiting insurance coverage for work, health and safety penalties and introducing enforceable undertakings as an alternative penalty.

It follows the increase in workplace penalties that the Western Australian Government introduced in October 2018, with the highest offences being punished with a maximum $2.7 million penalty for first time offenders and $3.5 million for subsequent offenders.

This is up from $500,000 and $625,000 respectively.

Less severe cases will be hit with $450,000 for first time offenders (up from $50,000) and $570,000 for subsequent offences, up from $62,500.

Premier Mark McGowan said that the new Work Health and Safety Bill aims to provide workers with greater protection, covering modern employment relationships like subcontractors and casual workers.

“This important bill modernises Western Australia’s outdated workplace safety laws, which were over 30 years old,” McGowan said.

“The health and safety of Western Australian workers is one of my government’s key priorities, every worker has the right to come home safely from work each day.”

Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston added that the new bill will bring the mining, petroleum and general industries together into one act, but with separate regulations, to assist businesses with their safety obligations.

“I’m very pleased that we have significantly increased the maximum penalties available to the courts for companies and directors responsible for workplace tragedies.

“This will act as a deterrent and ensure all workplaces focus on improving safety culture.

“This reflects the social obligations and responsibilities the community now expects from companies and their senior management, including that mental health and wellbeing needs to be considered alongside physical safety.”

The new bill will harmonise Western Australia with all other Australian states and territories, except Victoria.

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