Below is the preface excerpt from the second edition of the Annotated Australian Work Health and Safety Legislation book, which incorporates the considerable changes which have occurred since the model Work Health and Safety Laws (WHS Laws) were introduced in 2012.
The author, Cormack E. Dunn, sees developments and changes on the horizon which will impact and, in some cases, test the WHS Laws. These developments include:
- The adoption by New Zealand of significant aspects of the WHS Laws in 2016. It is yet to be seen whether their approach will influence how Australian safety regulators and courts will view the WHS Laws.
- The increasing number of cases in courts, as safety regulators move from an advisory approach to an enforcement approach. The extent to which a court in one State will have regard to the approach adopted by a court in another State also remains to be seen.
- Better understanding of the weaknesses of the WHS Laws and the need for any amendments, particularly in clarifying the respective responsibilities of duty holders when there are multiple duty holders at the same workplace.
- The impact of the introduction by the States, Territories and the Commonwealth of WHS laws which are industry-specific, such as in the mining, transport and rail industries.
- The impact of goods being increasingly manufactured overseas and importers, suppliers and purchasers not being able to obtain assurance that these imported goods meet the requirements of the WHS Laws.
- The growing focus on health and what is required of duty holders to address increasingly significant health issues, such as obesity and mental health.
The Annotated Australian Work Health and Safety Legislation – 2nd Edition title is available now on the CCH Bookshop.
Changes, Cases, Codes and Contents Covered
First, this edition incorporates the WHS Laws adopted in South Australia and Tasmania. This means that the jurisdictional differences for all Australian jurisdictions that have adopted the WHS Laws are now included. Victoria and Western Australia remain the exception as at the time of printing they had not adopted the WHS Laws.
Second, the edition includes the jurisdictional differences for the regulations. This means that the reader can easily understand how the sections and regulations for each State, Territory and the Commonwealth differ from each other and the model WHS Laws.
Third, this edition addresses those changes that each State, Territory and the Commonwealth have made to their WHS Laws since their initial introduction. This includes variations regarding union officials’ powers to enter a workplace, and the courts where matters are heard.
Fourth, this edition details those cases which provide important guidance on how key provisions of the WHS Laws are to be interpreted. This includes Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd v The Queen  HCA 14, where the High Court held that a duty holder can properly rely on contractors who possess specialist knowledge and expertise about how work should be safely performed.
Fifth, this edition references at the relevant section and regulation the applicable model Codes of Practice published by Safe Work Australia. This provides the reader with easy reference to national guides on how duty holders can practically achieve compliance with the WHS Laws.
Sixth, this edition includes within the commentary for each section and regulation cross-references to other relevant sections and regulations. This includes terms used in the WHS Laws that have a defined meaning in the WHS Act.
Seventh, this edition no longer contains the additional Parts and Schedules which are jurisdiction-specific. These have been removed because many related to the arrangements each State, Territory and the Commonwealth had made so as to transition from their preexisting laws to the WHS Laws. With the time now passed since the introduction of the WHS Laws, most of these arrangements are now not relevant.
Eighth, this edition reflects a different perspective in its commentary, such that it no longer looks to highlight the differences between the pre-existing OHS laws and the ‘‘new’’ WHS Laws. With the WHS laws having now been enacted for a number of years, this comparative perspective is no longer needed. Instead, the commentary describes the WHS laws as they now stand, and independent from the historical understanding of preexisting OHS laws.
Finally, this edition has removed the Overview which appeared at the beginning of the first edition and placed this content at the relevant introduction for each part of the WHS Act. This is for the convenience of the reader so that they do not have to refer to two areas of the book to obtain related information.
In conclusion and looking beyond Australia, the author recognises that much is needed to improve the safety of people working in developing countries, and encourages all professionals to consider what positive contribution they can make to bring changes.
About the Author
Cormack E. Dunn is a Partner at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm with 139 offices in 51 countries. Cormack has over 20 years’ experience and is recognised as a leading safety lawyer with clients throughout the Asia Pacific region. Cormack is also a leading commentator on safety issues and his books are widely used in industry, tertiary study and the legal community.
In addition to this book, Cormack is also the editor and co-author of the Australian and New Zealand Master Work Health and Safety Guide 2017.