Inspire : Public Works Nov Dec 2012
30 Public Works Professional November-December 2012 the model legislation in the 2012-13 fnancial year. The Victorian Government has announced that they do not plan on joining the national WHS system and the South Australian Parliament is in the midst of debating the model legislation. If the legislative framework wasn't complex enough, there is further complication in the process to adopt the codes of practice that provide greater detail about each party's obligations under the new laws. Following an extensive consultation process, each draft code is sent to the Select Council on Workplace Relations (the Ministerial Council, comprising the WHS ministers from each state or territory) for approval. That code then comes into effect individually in each jurisdiction when that state or territory's regulator formally adopts it. As the representative of professional services frms in the built and natural environment sectors, Consult Australia's focus has been on the 'safety in design' codes of practice: The Code of Practice for Safe Design of Str uctures and the Code of Practice for Safe Design, Import, Manufacture and Supply of Plant. The former of these has been approved by the Ministerial Council, but has not yet been adopted in every jurisdiction, while the latter code of practice is still in its fnal stages of development. Consult Australia continues to call for all jurisdictions to adopt the model legislation, as we believe the benefts to business and the economy will outweigh any costs. While Consult Australia is working with our member frms to support their transition to the new laws, it is important that their clients and others involved in the design process also assist consultants in meeting their obligations. Where traditionally obligations simply fell to a designer to ensure that a str ucture or plant could be safely constructed, used and maintained, the obligations now extend to the full range of participants in the design process, including clients and potentially even property owners. Indeed, the 2011 Work Health and Safety Act now refers to duties residing with 'persons conducting businesses or undertakings' relating to the design. To assist our membership, Consult Australia has developed a guidance toolkit that will help frms to meet their obligations. A feature of the toolkit is a draft letter for consulting frms to send to their clients, explaining how responsibilities for safety in design are shared, and how the cooperation of the client and other stakeholders is essential to manage safety risks. Where a client does not cooperate, a signifcant challenge will present itself to consultants as they attempt to meet their obligations and to manage workplace risks. Clients are uniquely placed to liaise between the range of stakeholders who will each have a particular perspective on risks that need to be managed, and how to best manage those risks. There is also the question of the legal standing of these and other codes of practice developed by Safe Work Australia. Consulting frms require clarity about their obligations so they can develop policies and practices to ensure they meet them, while also providing the safest possible workplaces. One example that has been brought to our attention is the requirement under the 'safety in design' codes of practice to develop a safety report. There is little offcial guidance as to what a safety report should look like, or what standing it will have in legal proceedings. By asking this question on behalf of our industry, Consult Australia has found that answers are largely unknown and will be discovered throughout the transition period, where allowance will be made for new practices with little precedent. To this end, it is important that regulators acknowledge the challenges faced by frms during the transition period and work with them to help businesses better understand their obligations, rather than taking a hard enforcement line. However, there is also an important role for industry associations such as Consult Australia to assist their membership by providing guidance on how to meet these obligations. The transition to the new national system of WHS laws will, in the long run, provide industry with a range of benefts, from reduced red tape for compliance, to improved understanding of their obligations. These will, in turn, lead to better safety outcomes. Achieving optimal workplace safety results requires a holistic approach rather than simply ticking boxes on a checklist and requires the input of all stakeholders. ••• The transition will, in the long run, provide industry with a range of bene ts. CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION Have your say on this story. Visit http://goo.gl/pYzXC to comment on this article.
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