New bill to replace nsw oh&s act 1983

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New bill to replace nsw oh&s act 1983

Tabled in the New South Wales Legislative Council on 26 May 2000, the Occupational Health and Safety Bill 2000 is intended to replace the existing Occupational Health and Safety Act 1983.

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Tabled in the New South Wales Legislative Council on 26 May 2000, the Occupational Health and Safety Bill 2000 is intended to replace the existing Occupational Health and Safety Act 1983

The Bill also proposes to repeal the Construction Safety Act 1912 and the relevant provisions of the Factories, Shops and Industries Act 1962. In introducing the Bill, the Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations, described it as a significant step in modernising the pioneering legislation of 1983.

The Bill arises after an extensive review in recent years of the OH&S legislation in NSW. This included the tripartite panel of review chaired by Professor Ron McCallum and the Legislative Council's Standing Committee Enquiry into Workplace Safety.

Written in plain English, the Bill incorporates a number of new objectives that reflect the principles of prevention through risk management, equity, participation and the acceptance of responsibility through consultation and community awareness.

Significant changes to existing legislation

The new duty to consult. The Bill proposes to make it a requirement that employers consult with their employees in relation to decisions that affect their health, safety and welfare. The Bill provides for what the Minister described as a "flexible" range of consultation mechanisms. The mechanisms provided for are OH&S committees, OH&S representatives or other agreed consultation arrangements. It is important to note that workplaces with fewer than 20 employees will not be required to form OH&S committees.

It is proposed that victims injured as a result of an OH&S offence be given an opportunity to present Victim Impact Statements in Court sentencing. 

The option is made available to the Court to impose additional sanctions such as requiring offenders to publicise their offence or to undertake special OH&S projects.

Whilst the 1983 Act expressly bound the Crown and its agencies to give effect to OH&S standards, the Bill goes further ensuring government agencies are liable for breaches committed by their predecessors.

Preliminary Comment

It is understood that unions continue to push for the provision of WorkCover Inspectorate Powers for union officials, this provision was not included in the Bill.

The re-writing of the 1983 Act into plain English puts in place the basis for the draft OH&S consolidated Regulation that is expected later this year.

It remains to be seen how the consultation requirements on businesses will be implemented, and whether the regulatory burden of this will be too costly for small businesses.

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