AMMA has voiced industry concern about a beefed-up union right of entry regime and increased powers for health and safety representatives proposed for Western Australia.

In a submission on the Work Health and Safety (WHS) harmonisation process in Western Australia, AMMA provided feedback on the Ministerial Advisory Panel’s (MAP) proposals for amendments to the model Work Health and Safety Bill for adoption in the state.

The submission to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety highlighted a proposed separate right of entry regime under the new WA WHS Act was entirely unnecessary.

AMMA submitted there was no national consensus regarding union right of entry that would justify Western Australia’s adoption of the provisions in the 2011 Model WHS Bill.

“The right of entry regime recommended by the MAP would create conflict and confusion given the extensive right of entry provisions that already exist under both state and federal industrial law,” AMMA’s submission read.

“Further, adopting this regime would bring with it an unacceptable risk – a risk that has been realised in jurisdictions where safety laws allow for union right of entry – of trade unions abusing right of entry privileges, and union officials using safety laws as a ruse to access workplaces in support of their industrial or political interests.”

Among a number of concerns, the submission raised safety, security and logistical issues associated with allowing individuals to access major resources and energy facilities without prior notice.

The submission also outlined the safety regime in WA does not need to be supported by a right of entry scheme that involves surprise raids by union officials.

AMMA also opposed an extension of the powers of Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) which would see a new legal power to direct that work cease.

“The proposed WA WHS Act, with the MAP recommendations, would prescribe powers that go well beyond the historic responsibilities of HSR’s in WA in supporting collaborative safe work cultures in their employer’s workplace,” AMMA submitted.

AMMA said that all workers already have a statutory right to cease unsafe work, with appropriate safeguards, making it unnecessary to “redefine and bolster the legal role of HSRs in the workplace”.

“The Regulator should be the only authority with power under the proposed WA WHS Act to unilaterally direct work to be ceased, and this should not be undermined,” the submission stated.

AMMA’s submission also raised significant concerns in relation to investigations, reviews and prosecutions, with MAP recommendations likely to blur the distinction between safety matters and industrial matters.

AMMA also strongly opposed any measures seeking to bolster the influence of third parties, including trade unions, over safety matters, at the expense of the independent specialist WHS Regulator.

The submission further recommends that the development and implementation of the proposed WA WHS Act, based on Model WHS laws, be deferred until Safe Work Australia releases its report into the performance of the nationally harmonised WHS system in 2019.

AMMA would like to thank members for their input into this submission. For any further feedback or questions relating to Work Health and Safety, please contact [email protected]