Q. Will the new National WHS legislation have any impact on NSW workplaces?

Yes! There are some significant changes from the previous OHS law.

  1. The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU - previously the employer) must now, as far as practicable, ensure a safe workplace. In NSW, the onus of proof has been reversed should an injury occur.
  2. The consultation provisions allow more informal arrangements with training required for Health and Safety Representatives but not committee members.
  3. "Officers" in an organization (with control of a substantial part of the business) are required to exercise due diligence with substantial penalties for non-compliance
  4. Visitors, volunteers and apprentices are regarded as "workers" and have to act safely. This has serious implications for the quality of induction provided to these people.

Q. Does the organisation have to have a Health and Safety Representative (HSR)?

If requested by a worker, the PCBU must facilitate the election of a HSR from one or more workgroups. The number of workgroups is determined by negotiation between the PCBU and workers.

Q. Do HSRs have to be trained?

Yes. All elected HSRs have to be trained, at company expense, within three months of election to the role. Final details are not available yet but in NSW the WorkCover approved course is likely to be five days.

Q. Will we need to stop volunteers from coming on site?

No, but! Under the new Act, volunteers are regarded as "workers" and are required to act safely. This has implications for the quality and scope of the induction volunteers receive when coming into a workplace. They would need to be given a general induction to the work type, a site induction and provided with training for specific tasks they would be undertaking at the site. Records of this process would need to be kept.