New laws have been passed in Queensland to increase protections for workers and reduce red tape for businesses.
The Bligh government has become the first state in Australia to pass the Work Health and Safety Bill as part of the three year national reform agenda.
Industrial Relations Minister Cameron Dick labelled the bill passed in Queensland Parliament today a “significant milestone” for the harmonisation of workplace safety laws.
"The new Work Health and Safety Act 2011 is a win for both Queensland workers and businesses," he said.
"These laws – which have been the subject of extensive consultation over the past three years – will remove confusion and complexity caused by Australia’s multiple workplace laws and form part of the national reforms that will result in harmonised workplace laws across Australia.
"The laws broaden the definition of ‘worker’ to include labour hire, contractors and subcontractors, and imposes the onus of proof on the regulate or to prove an offence.
"The legislation enables the courts to impose significantly higher penalties for breaches of the Act.
"Ultimately, this is about making it simpler for employers to keep their workplaces safe while continuing to provide protection for workers."
Earlier this month, the NSW Minerals Council said the introduction of new harmonised workplace health and safety laws will bring the state into the 21st century.
It said Australia has been putting workers and businesses at risk by having separate laws for each state
Dick said the new laws would reduce red-tape for business saving Queensland’s economy more than $30 million a year.
"The new legislation combats the confusion, complexity and duplication caused by Australia’s multiple workplace health and safety regimes and replaces the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995," he said.
"The laws balance the need for simplified business practices without impacting on workers’ rights."
The new national model Work Health and Safety Bill was developed in consultation with industry, unions, all states and territories and the general public and Dick said the new legislation includes changes to various pieces of workplace health and safety legislation.
It also amends the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act to ensure the review of the workers’ compensation scheme every five years, to strengthen insurance and data collection arrangements in the construction industry, and to protect workers’ entitlements to accrue leave entitlements while on workers’ compensation
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