On 17 June 2020, the Queensland Parliament passed minor changes to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) related to right of entry disputes. The changes involve:
- streamlining right of entry dispute resolutions by removing sections 141A and 142A of the WHS Act
- increasing the penalties for when there is obstruction, intimidation and threatening behaviour in the context of right of entry matters and generally in relation to inspectors.
Removing sections 141A and 142A means inspectors can no longer issue written directions to determine right of entry disputes. However, inspectors can still be called on to assist in resolving disputes. If a dispute remains unresolved, any relevant party can make application to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to seek a resolution.
The maximum penalties for prohibited conduct in the right of entry context have increased from 100 penalty units to 500 penalty units (Part 7, Division 7 of the WHS Act—sections 144-148). This includes refusing or delaying entry of a WHS entry permit holder, or one party hindering or obstructing the other.
The maximum penalties for offences against inspectors (Part 9, Division 6 of the WHS Act) have increased to:
- 500 penalty units for hindering or obstructing an inspector (section 188) and impersonating an inspector (section 189)
- 1,000 penalty units for assaulting, threatening or intimidating an inspector (section 190).
The decision to pursue prosecutions of offences is for the independent Work Health and Safety Prosecutor, based on all available evidence. The above penalties are the maximum penalties that would apply in the most serious cases.
A copy of the amendments which came into effect on 22 June 2020 and explanatory notes are available at https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/