Workplace Health & Safety

The Commonwealth and each state and territory government have agreed to harmonise their work health and safety laws, including Regulations and Codes of Practice, so that they are similar in each jurisdiction.
The Commonwealth, states and territories are responsible for making and enforcing their own work health and safety laws. Although there are many similarities between the laws there are also some differences that can cause confusion. Australian workers should be entitled to the same work health and safety standards, regardless of the jurisdiction in which they operate.

This regulatory inconsistency is being addressed through an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) where, for the first time, governments from each state and territory and the Commonwealth have formally committed to harmonise work health and safety laws by developing and adopting a model Work Health and Safety Act supported by model Regulations and model Codes of Practice. The intention is to deliver the same work health and safety protections to all Australians.

How are work health and safety laws being harmonised?
Safe Work Australia is responsible for developing model work health and safety laws. Safe Work Australia is an independent statutory body established on 1 November 2009, under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008. Its primary function is to progress the model work health and safety laws in partnership with state and territory governments, employers and workers, who are represented as Safe Work Australia Members.
Each jurisdiction will go through the process of enacting legislation based on the model laws. The intention is to have mirror laws enacted in each jurisdiction. Minor but necessary variations may be made consistent with relevant drafting protocols and to achieve consistency with other laws and processes operating within a jurisdiction.

When will the changes come into effect?
The Commonwealth and each state and territory will be required to enact laws that reflect the model work health and safety laws by the end of December 2011. It is expected that all laws will commence on 1 January 2012.
Model Codes of Practice will be developed and implemented at the same time as the model WHS Regulations. However, development and implementation of further model Codes of Practice will continue beyond December 2011.