Model WHS Amendments to Include a Greater Focus on Psychological Health

It's likely the model WHS laws will be amended to include a greater focus on psychological health after an ongoing consultation period revealed widespread confusion and concern.

As part of SafeWork Australia's review into the Model WHS laws, independent reviewer Marie Boland launched a consultation period in February this year. She has since received 132 written submissions, 127 online comments, and taken face-to-face questions from 381 people across the country.

In her summary report, Boland said the majority of people she consulted raised the management of psychological risks as a key issue. She said the lack of a notification trigger for psychological injury and occupational diseases was widely criticised.

"The common view is that the model WHS laws do not sufficiently focus on psychological health and that the 'how' part of ensuring the psychological health and safety of workers is not clear."

Boland said that every person she consulted with said incident notification requirements needed clarification, with many expressing confusion around what constitutes a ‘serious injury or illness’ and ‘dangerous incident’.

"Suggestions were provided for other incidents that could trigger a notification, including those arising from exposure to occupational violence, direct exposure to bodily fluid and the suicide of a worker."

Other key issues identified during the consultation process included technical issues in relation to specific regulations. More broadly, concerns were raised about Safe Work Method Statements, high risk work licensing, hazardous chemicals and major hazard facilities.

There was also a strong view that there exists a lack of consistency in application and interpretation of the model WHS laws within and across jurisdictions, and mixed feelings on the idea of industrial manslaughter.

Boland's final report will be delivered to Safe Work Australia by the end of 2018 and to WHS ministers in early 2019.

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