National health and safety law harmonisation failing

According to a story today in Lawyers Weekly, the Model Work Health and Safety Act that was introduced in 2011 has failed to unify the various state-based health and safety laws.

While most states have adopted the Model Work Health and Safety Act, Victoria and Western Australia are still holding out.

Clyde & Co. partner Alena Titterton, noted that jurisdictional differences are at least part of the reason behind preventing this true harmonisation.

“Western Australia is due to come on board as of January 2017, and Victoria hasn’t adopted the harmonised model,” Titterton said.

“I think perhaps what’s the more interesting development, is that while you’ve got this harmonisation of the laws, you’ve also got a divergence in which courts around the country are hearing health and safety prosecutions,” Titterton said.

“In NSW, there was quite a public campaign to move away from the specialist court in the NSW Industrial Court. Now we’ve got these safety prosecutions being heard in the District and Supreme Courts in NSW.”

 “Almost at the same time, we’ve got an Industrial Magistrates Court being set up in the ACT, developing this specialised jurisprudence in the area, so we’ve got a Chief Magistrate down there that’s kind of putting out some really interesting decisions.”

 “There are two key policy reasons for sentencing in regulatory enforcement, such as safety prosecutions, and that’s your general deterrents and your specific deterrents. But you also want to send that message out to the community at large, that failing to look after the health and safety of your workers and other people at your workplaces, is going to come with significant ramifications,” Titterton said.