Laws strengthen worker protections

New Work Health and Safety laws include improved worker consultation and streamlined dispute resolution. Picture: SAFEWORK HEALTH

New Work Health and Safety laws passed on 21 March have marked a significant milestone in bolstering protection and representation for Queensland workers.

The recently developed laws are based upon recommendations from the review of Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the national 2018 Review of the Model Work Health and Safety Laws, prepared by Safe Work Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Marie Boland.

Notable changes include granting health and safety representatives the autonomy to select their training provider and ensuring full remuneration for training attendance.

The WHS Act Review also considered the role fines and penalties play in deterrence and reoffending.

Under the new laws, it won’t be possible to offer or take out insurance to cover penalties for WHS breaches.

Other key changes will see clarified and extended rights of entry permit holders, streamlined dispute resolution processes, and will improve the efficiencies of court proceedings by moving some matters from the Magistrates Court to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

The laws also clarify rules around representation for employees and employers under the Act, in line with the changes made to the Industrial Relations Act in 2022.

Minister for Industrial Relations Grace Grace said it is integral that WHS laws remain contemporary and fit for purpose across all work fields.

“These laws give effect to legislative recommendations made by the independent WHS Act Review, as well as eight recommendations from the Boland Review,” she said.

“We are continuing to implement the remaining recommendations from the WHS Act Review, with further legislative changes anticipated this year.”