Health and Safety at Work Law (2020) entered into force on March 31, 2022 – New obligations in agribusiness | Mandurah Mail

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Special Counsel Matthew Lilly and Attorney Kimberly Jones of HHG Legal Group’s Agribusiness team discuss the Workplace Health and Safety Act (2020).

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2020 (WA) (Act) began on March 31, 2022, following the publication of three sets of regulations under the Act. The new laws provide a framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers in WA workplaces, including farms, and of others who might be affected by the work.

Agriculture is a high-risk environment, with a higher fatality rate (than most industries), so industry compliance is key to ensuring the success of the Act.

It is crucial that farmers and agribusinesses understand their duties under the new laws and have an approach to fulfilling these duties.

What do the regulations do?

Three sets of regulations have been published, and the ‘General’ regulations will apply to all workplaces, including farms. Although these regulations generally apply to all industries, there will be different obligations in different workplaces. Some regulations are specific to the equipment (the requirements for a rollover protective structure on a tractor) and to the type of work (audiometric tests where a worker wears hearing protection equipment).

What do I need to know about my obligations in general?

This law has been widely discussed in recent years. Therefore, you probably know that the Law:

  • increases penalties for violations, including introducing a crime of industrial manslaughter (for which the penalty is $5,000,000 and/or 20 years in prison);
  • broadens the scope of persons with duties under the Act (and multiple persons may have the same duty);
  • brings WA into line with most of Australia, by adopting the Model Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws; Y
  • prohibits insurance against imposed fines.

It is important to note that the primary duty of care, to provide a safe workplace, has not materially changed. Duty bearers are required to ensure, as far as possible, that the workplace is free from risks to the safety and health of people.

All companies must have measures in place to eliminate or minimize health and safety risks in their workplace under the previous health and safety regime. The measures must be continually re-evaluated, and now with the new laws in mind.

There are many resources available to help businesses with compliance, but it’s easy to get stuck down a rabbit hole and overwhelmed by information. DMIRS WorkSafe WA and Safework Australia are good starting points, with written and video resources, as well as mailing lists, to keep you informed.

There are also a number of agriculture-specific organizations, such as Farmsafe Australia, that provide practical resources for compliance, such as quad safety guides, machinery, and stock management.

What do I do if an accident occurs?

You must notify WorkSafe (by phone or in writing) as soon as you become aware of a death, serious injury or illness, or dangerous incident arising from the conduct of business. Records of this incident should also be kept.

How should I be fulfilling my obligations?

As you review your workplace and duties, we suggest you consider the following:

  • Carry out a risk audit of your workplace (you cannot minimize or eliminate risk if you do not know the risks and hazards);
  • Consult with your employees about WHS (they may have a different perspective);
  • Review and update your policies and procedures (and make sure they are available to your employees);
  • Make sure all employees are well trained (especially in high-risk areas, such as working with machinery and animals); Y
  • Keep records (make sure you can show you have taken all reasonable steps and have documentation for all equipment).

You will then be able to determine if you need further advice on your risk management obligations or processes. If you would like HHG to help you with this process, please contact one of our agribusiness team.

Contact our agribusiness lawyers on (08) 9322 1966 or reception@hhg.com.au

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