Much of the detailed content in the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws should be moved from the Regulations section to Codes of Practice and other guidance material, as this would allow organisations to better tailor the laws to their own workplaces, according to the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA).
In its recent submission to Safe Work Australia (SWA) on the model WHS laws, the SIA said such a change would "assist accessibility, readability and enable implementation of the Regulations to be tailored to local risk factors".
Jon Temby, chair of the SIA National Technical Panel Working Group that put the submission together, said there had been concern about the model WHS regulations being too prescriptive.
"A lot of detail would be better placed in the Codes of Practice, and this would give people the flexibility to equal or better tailor the detail to their workplace needs, rather than having hard, prescriptive regulations," he said.
In its submission, the SIA also expressed concern about the section on confined spaces in the model WHS laws.
"The entire content on confined spaces is seriously flawed and prescribes a standard of operation which is below current industry practice and the requirements of AS 2865 as the key source document for information regarding confined spaces," said the SIA submission.
"There is an urgent need for informed redevelopment of this section by persons suitably qualified in this area to ensure that this significantly high risk activity is properly addressed in these regulations."
Overall, the SIA commended SWA and the work it had put in to prepare the draft WHS laws, according to Temby.
"It's a very positive move for Australia to do this, and from my point of view, long overdue," he said.
"The drafts that have come out have reflected the short timeframe that's been available, however, the submission process will hopefully result in a very good set of legislation for Australia."
The SIA submission is available on the SWA website at www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/Legislation/PublicComment/Documents/Model work health and safety public comment 2010/Public submissions S/460 Safety Institute of Australia Inc.pdf