The Western Australian Government has recently signalled significant changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1984 (WA) (OHS Act). The proposed changes place Western Australian businesses on notice, as penalties for business owners who commit workplace safety offences are set to increase significantly.

The proposed legislative changes to penalty levels are expected to take place ahead of the introduction to the Work Health and Safety Bill, due for introduction into State Parliament by mid-2019. The changes to the OHS Act have been flagged by the Government to provide an incentive for Western Australian businesses to comply with workplace safety laws, as well as align the penalty provisions with community expectations.

Examples of increases to penalty provisions under the proposed amendments are provided below:

Description of Workplace Safety Offence Current Penalty Provision Proposed Penalty Provision
Level 4 offence involving employer breach of safety duties in circumstances of gross negligence Maximum $500,000 for first offence and $625,000 for subsequent offences Maximum $2.7 million indexed annually
Individual convicted of Level 4 offence Maximum 2 year jail term Maximum 5 year jail term
Level 1 offences such as employer failure to identify a manual handling hazard Maximum $50,000 Maximum $456,000

Western Australia is also expected to introduce the new offence of reckless or gross negligent conduct causing death in the upcoming Work Health and Safety Bill.

The new penalty provisions signal the imperative need for Western Australian business owners to seriously address occupational safety and health issues in the workplace. A comprehensive risk assessment can assist business owners in complying with their legal obligations. A review of company policies and procedures in this area is also essential.

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