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Occupational Health & Safety Prosecutions

Much concern surrounds the upcoming changes to the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) laws. The OH&S Act will be replaced by the Work Health and Safety Act in January, but it is not just a change in name that will occur on 1 January 2012 in NSW.

The new laws will increase the number of people who can be prosecuted and found liable for breaches of the Act. The risks of not complying with the Act will no longer be limited to the employer. The penalties for breaching the Act will also increase.

But…the good news is there are also new ways of protecting yourself from prosecution.

The best way of defending yourself from a prosecution is to have a safe system of work in place. Those responsible must do all that is reasonably practicable to exercise their duty to ensure the workplace is safe. It is not enough now to claim an injured person is not an employee nor is it enough to claim that the injured worker was responsible for their own injury.

This means that those responsible need to know what their responsibilities are so that they can address the risks and satisfy their duty. Understanding the documentary requirements and implementing them in the workplace is essential to a successful defence to an OH&S prosecution, however documentary compliance alone will not protect you from conviction.

Serious injuries are on the decline across NSW and Australia, presumably due to an increased awareness in workplace safety and the effective management of risk. Hopefully the compliance requirements under the new Act will continue that trend into the future.

For further information, please contact the Workplace Law Team.