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27 Oct 11
Despite recent rumours, NSW WHS laws to take effect from 1 January 2012

The introduction of the Work Health and Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 (Bill) on 20 October 2011 has caused rumours that New South Wales is seeking to delay the commencement of the harmonised work, health and safety laws. 

Amongst a number of other amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), the tabled Bill repeals the current commencement date for the WHS Act.  The WHS Act currently states that the act will commence on 1 January 2012.  The amendment states that the WHS Act is to commence on 1 January 2012 or on such later day as may be appointed by proclamation before 1 January 2012. 

The amendment gives the government the choice of announcing a new commencement date for the WHS Act, provided the new start date is proclaimed prior to 1 January 2012.  This has led some to infer that New South Wales is no longer committed to implementing the laws on 1 January 2012.

While the amendment allows the government to introduce a new start date for the WHS Act there has been no indication by the government that this is to occur.  If anything, the tabling of the Bill, which includes provisions as to how the Coal Mines Health and Safety Act 2002 (NSW) (CMHSA) and other industry-specific legislation is to interact with the WHS Act, is an indication that New South Wales is committed to implementation by the 1 January 2012 deadline. 

Given the prior uncertainty surrounding how the CMHSA and other industry specific acts were to interact with the WHS Act, the introduction of the Bill is an indication by the government that they are working towards the 1 January 2012 commencement date. 

In his second reading speech, the Minister for Finance and Services, Greg Pearce stated that the ‘the Work Health and Safety Act is intended to be commenced by all Australian jurisdictions on 1 January 2012, although there may be delays in some jurisdictions.’ 

The New South Wales Government has also stated that they are currently reviewing the model Work Health and Safety Regulations and codes of practice with a view to implementing them by 1 January 2012. 

We suggest that until the government announces otherwise, businesses continue to prepare for harmonisation with the 1 January 2012 commencement date in mind.  Regardless of when, harmonisation of health and safety laws is coming.  Just remember, it wasn’t raining when Noah built the arc.

For up to the hour updates on developments in relation to the work health and safety law, link in with Jeremy Kennedy on LinkedIn, subscribe to Workplace Health & Safety Lawyer discussion group on LinkedIn or follow Jeremy on Twitter @WHSLawyer.

This Alert covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases. This Alert is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.

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