Why do we need model work health and safety laws?
Source: Safe Work Australia
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
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
How was the model WHS Act developed?
The model WHS Act is the result of a comprehensive national
review into work health and safety laws across Australia, which
involved substantial public consultation.
The first draft of the model WHS Act was based on the decisions of the
Workplace Relations Ministers' Council (WRMC) in relation to the
national review findings. The WRMC's decisions are published
The first draft of the model WHS Act was released for public
comment for six weeks in September 2009. The 480 submissions
received during this period informed many of the amendments to the
first draft. The amended draft was endorsed by WRMC in December
Where can I find the current version of the model WHS Act?
WRMC authorised Safe Work Australia to make final technical and
drafting amendments to ensure that the model WHS Act operates as
intended. The current version of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS)
Act incorporates technical amendments made since November 2010.
Health and Safety Act - revised 23 June 2011
What transitional arrangements will be put in place?
Appropriate transitional arrangements will be put in place in each
All jurisdictions have agreed to a set of principles which will ensure
that transitional arrangements are consistent across Australia,
although some variations are inevitable as each jurisdiction will be
transitioning from a different work health and safety system.
View contact details for state and territory work health and safety
Will there be a national regulator?
No, the Commonwealth and each state and territory will continue to
regulate the administration of laws in their jurisdiction.
Will there be consistent approach to enforcing the work health and
Under the IGA, Safe Work Australia is also responsible for developing a
national compliance and enforcement policy to complement the harmonised
work health and safety laws. The policy aims to ensure that work health
and safety regulators take a nationally consistent approach to
compliance and enforcement. The policy will include the criteria which
will be used to guide enforcement decision making and outline the
circumstances in which the regulator may use specific enforcement tools
that are mandated under the model Work Health and Safety Act.
The National Compliance and Enforcement Policy will be submitted to
WRMC for approval in August 2011 and will be published on Safe Work
How are the model WHS Regulations and model Codes of Practice being
Safe Work Australia established a Strategic Issues Group on
Occupational Health and Safety (SIG-OHS) to develop the model WHS
Regulations based on a three stage process as outlined in the IGA.
Stage one involved the development of regulations covering those areas
currently regulated in all jurisdictions. Stage two included
consideration of matters included in some, but not all, jurisdictions.
Stage three involved identifying those matters requiring considerable
The SIG-OHS consists of representatives from each state, territory and
the Commonwealth, as well as representatives from employer and union
organisations. The draft model WHS Regulations and first stage Codes of
Practice were released for public comment in December 2010. The public
comment period closed on 4 April 2011.
Safe Work Australia received a total of 1343 submissions. The model WHS
Regulations and first stage Codes of Practice have been amended taking
into account public comment and following further consideration by the
SIG-OHS members, Safe Work Australia members and the Parliamentary
The model WHS Regulations and first stage Codes of Practice will be
submitted to WRMC for approval in August 2011.
Mining public comment
When will the next public consultation process happen?
To support the model Work Health and Safety Act, Safe Work Australia in
conjunction with the National Mine Safety Framework (NMSF), recently
released a range of mining documents for public comment. The draft
model Work Health and Safety Regulations, model Codes of Practice and
an Issues Paper for mining are available here.
There will be two closing dates for the mining public comment process:
Comments on the draft model WHS Regulations and the Consultation
Regulatory Impact Statement must be submitted by
9 September 2011.
Comments on the draft model Codes of Practice must be submitted by
7 October 2011.
How do I get copies of the mining documents?
The documents are available to download from the model WHS
section of our website.
Some FAQs to assist you with making a submission are also available