Master Electricians Australia (MEA) has endorsed the changes to workplace health and safety (WHS) laws in Queensland, saying they would ensure genuine safety concerns were prioritised without being abused for industrial purposes.

MEA chief executive Malcolm Richards welcomed the passage of the new laws through Parliament. The new laws will mean:

At least 24 hours' notice is required before WHS entry permit holders can enter a workplace to inquire into a suspected contravention. This will align with other entry notification periods in the WHS Act and the Fair Work Act 2009;

Increased penalties for non-compliance with WHS entry permit conditions and introduce penalties for failure to comply with entry notification requirements;

Health and safety representatives will no longer be able to arbitrarily call a halt to work; and

Codes of safe work practice in Queensland can be approved or changed without requiring national consultation as currently required by the WHS Act. 

The new laws also increase the maximum penalties for breaches of the Electrical Safety Regulation.

According to Mr Richards, the new laws represented a practical, common sense approach to workplace safety, and would create safer, more productive worksites in Queensland.

Mr Richards emphasised the need for a strong workplace safety regime that ensures every worker on every Queensland building site goes home to his or her family at the end of the day.

However, he said this very important safety regime has been hijacked in recent years as a tool for union bullying and industrial point scoring. Building unions have used obscure parts of the previous law to cause significant delays to major projects, and as the basis for spurious right of entry claims, threatening productivity and job creation in the industry, and creating complacency around safety issues. 

MEA commended the Queensland Government for moving to adopt a practical and balanced stance.