All states and territories except Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania signed up for new uniform work health and safety laws (WHS) from 1 January 2012. Despite this legislation being available for months, in strataland we are not very well informed about its application.
There are many unanswered questions about how these laws apply to owners corporations and bodies corporate managing common property, but there are some things we know for sure. The first of these is that any building with a shop or other form of commercial lot within, will be caught by the new regime. So if you enjoy the convenience of fresh milk and bread downstairs, it will now cost a little more in compliance costs.
In this new world of nationalised health and safety laws, recklessly exposing a person to a risk of death or serious injury can be met with a fine of up to $3m for corporations and $600k for individuals and / or five years imprisonment. Serious risk of harm without recklessness comes cheap at $1.5m for a corporation, $300k for individuals and no visit to the ‘big house’. Failure to comply with WHS duties will cost a mere $500k for corporations and $100k for individuals.
‘Due diligence’ is your ‘get out of jail free’ card. You get these cards by demonstrating due diligence. Herein lies the concern for strata managers and owners. Our strata organisations have not been that good at actually doing things to improve health and safety. Creating systems and processes by which owners corporations and bodies corporate can be seen to be doing things is going to require a whole new level of sophistication.
Sadly, there will need to be a death or two before someone within a strata community, or their manager, is charged with recklessness and executive committee members begin to take this matter seriously. In the meantime, the wise will be getting their cards in order.