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Workplace Health and Safety ministers focus on regulatory action to strengthen laws

Media Release

The response to Marie Boland’s review of model work, health and safety laws (the Boland review), the safety of riders in the gig economy, and sexual harassment in the workplace were key topics discussed at the Work Health and Safety (WHS) ministers meeting on Thursday.

Federal Minister for Industrial Relations, Michaelia Cash was joined by the WHS ministers from each state and territory at this important meeting.

Positive and constructive discussions were held, with Ministers agreeing to a significant number of measures to improve WHS outcomes across the country.

Minister Cash said that Ministers considered the recommendations from the review of the model WHS laws undertaken by Marie Boland and agreement was reached for action on all of the 34 recommendations.

Safe Work Australia (SWA) will now progress those recommendations agreed by the Ministers.

The Morrison Government is committed to ensuring there are strong deterrents in place and that the community has confidence in Australia’s WHS laws.

Ministers unanimously agreed to introduce gross negligence (or equivalent) as a fault element in the Category 1 offence in the model WHS laws.

A majority of ministers also agreed to the Commonwealth’s proposal for Safe Work Australia to consider significant increases to the fines and imprisonment term for Category 1 offences in the model WHS laws.

Category 1 offences apply when a worker is killed at work or suffers serious injury or illness, or is exposed to such risks.

“I was pleased that ministers supported the Commonwealth’s position to further consider significant increases to penalties under the model WHS laws. These measures will increase the deterrent effect of the offences and ensure that the penalties reflect the importance of a safe environment for workers, and the serious impact of workplace deaths and injuries on families and the community.” Minister Cash said.

Ministers at the meeting also endorsed the National Principles to Support Families Following an Industrial Death (the Principles). These Principles were developed by SWA in response to the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry into Industrial Deaths – They Never Came Home and provide a framework for WHS authorities to draw on, and work with, other relevant agencies, such as the police, to guide policy and best practice at the operational level.

A majority of Ministers agreed to amend the model WHS Regulations to deal with psychological injury. This important commitment is consistent with the Government’s response to the Respect@Work report. Regulations will be further supported by the work of SWA as they develop a model Code of Practice on psychological health.

The WHS ministers also discussed the need to improve safety outcomes for food delivery riders. Ministers noted that SWA is developing national WHS guidance for the food delivery industry and agreed to refer work on promoting and strengthening education to SWA, and refer work on compliance and enforcement initiatives in relation to food delivery platforms and riders to the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities for consideration.

Read the WHS ministers’ meeting communiqué

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