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The Western Australian Parliament has approved legislation that significantly increases maximum fines for safety breaches in the State. The Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Bill 2017 and the Mines Safety and Inspection Amendment Bill 2017 passed through Parliament and, in doing so, increased work health and safety (WHS) fines in WA for the first time in 14 years.

The new laws, which are expected to receive royal assent within days, increase the maximum penalties for a range of offences under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA) (the OSH Act) and the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 (WA) (MSI Act).

The penalties

The new maximum penalties see a five-fold increase on previous fines for the most serious breaches under the OSH and MSI Acts, and exceed those in the already harmonised states and territories, as well as Victoria. The maximum fine that can be imposed on a corporation for grossly negligent conduct resulting in serious injury or death (level 4 breach) increases from $625,000 to $3.5 million. An officer or director who commits a repeat level 4 breach will face a maximum penalty of $680,000 and five years’ imprisonment—a significant increase from the current $312,500 and two years’ imprisonment.

The changes to level 4 penalties under the OSH and MSI Act are:

Maximum penalties under the OSH and MSI Acts Before the new penalty regime Under the new penalty regime
Officers/directors

First offence: $250,000 and two years’ imprisonment

Repeat offence: $312,500 and two years’ imprisonment

First offence: $550,000 and five years’ imprisonment

Repeat offence: $680,000 and five years’ imprisonment

Corporations

First offence: $500,000

Repeat offence: $625,000

First offence: $2.7 million

Repeat offence: $3.5 million

 

Employees that commit repeat breaches of their OSH duties will also be subject to increased punishment, with the maximum penalty rising from $12,500 to $50,000.

Be prepared

The increased penalties present a significant escalation in risk for businesses in the event of a serious safety incident. Further, with the new modernised WHS legislation expected to be implemented in the middle of 2019, now is the time to take proactive steps to assess all safety culture and systems.

If you’d like to find out more about the implications for your business or what steps can be taken to safeguard against contraventions, get in touch.

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