New Safety Legislation Extends Beyond Employees

By Paul Moss

Principal Workplace Relations Advocate Policy

WA’s new work health and safety legislation will extend a businesses’ responsibilities to provide a safe workplace beyond its own employees, requiring all businesses to consider the wellbeing of others affected by their operation.

The Workplace Health and Safety Act 2020 (WHS Act) will bring our workplace safety laws broadly in line with the national framework that has been adopted in all other states and territories (with the exception of Victoria) since 2012.

At its simplest level, the WHS Act requires businesses to, so far as reasonably practicable, provide a safe workplace.  This is consistent with the core obligation under the existing Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (OSH Act).

However, the WHS Act extends this obligation beyond the employer and employee relationship and will require businesses to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of contractors and their employees.

For the real estate industry, this raises a key question of how to manage contractors involved in the maintenance of rental properties.  For specialised contractors, such as electricians and plumbers, this obligation might be met by:

  • confirming the contractor has the necessary expertise and appropriate licences for the work;
  • verifying they have their own systems in place for carrying out work safely;
  • checking that they are carrying out work safely in accordance with their procedures;
  • raising any concerns, or taking action, where work is being carried out safely.

The biggest concern rests with smaller contractors that do not have their own safety policies and practices in places.  This will require real estate agents to have a greater level of oversight and control in the manner in which the contractor performs their work.

The WHS Act also requires greater consideration of the safety of clients and visitors, to ensure that the health and safety of others is not put at risk from work carried out as part of your business.

These changes will require most real estate businesses to consider a wider range of safety implications and adapt your policies to suit.

The new legislation will not take effect until the second half of 2021, with the supporting regulations still being developed.  REEFWA will provide members with further information on the impact of the new legislation over the coming months.

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