Comment Period Under Way for Australia's Model Regs

The deadline to comment on the 582-page document is April 4, 2011, and government safety agencies are urging employers and workers to participate as Australia moves toward harmonized regulations.

Safe Work Australia kept its promise to deliver draft model Work Health and Safety regulations and model codes of practice before the end of 2010. The agency posted the 582-page document Dec. 7 and began a public comment period that will last until April 4, 2011. Territorial and national government safety authorities, including Comcare, the national government's agency in charge of workers' compensation and rehabilitation, are urging employers and workers to submit comments.

A survey of Australian businesses is being conducted by Access Economics to obtain data on anticipated compliance costs and safety benefits of the model WHS regulations, and a summary document for those will be posted, according to Safe Work Australia.

The document addresses hazards in mining, construction, and manufacturing and subjects including asbestos exposure, hazard communication, diving safety, electrical work, plant safety, confined spaces, PPE, fire protection, fall protection, ergonomics, scaffolds, industrial robots, and lasers.

Included is a category named major hazard facility, which is defined as a facility where Schedule 15 chemicals are present or likely to be present in a quantity that exceeds their threshold quantity. Such facilities would be required to be registered or licensed, and their operators would file a "safety case outline" within three months of securing registration. An emergency plan and a security plan would be required.

"Model work health and safety laws will allow organizations to effectively manage workplace safety and work to one set of laws, regardless of how many states or territories they are operating in," said Tom Phillips, chair of Safe Work Australia. "This will increase profitability and productivity and most importantly, support the safety of all workers and provide greater certainty for employers."

"Harmonized work health and safety laws will affect all Australian workplaces in varying degrees. It is important that we all provide input during this consultation process to ensure the new laws are relevant to all federal workplaces," said Comcare CEO Paul O'Connor. "These proposed laws support the aim of Comcare, which is to influence and achieve the highest possible outcomes in workplace health and safety."

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