Occupational health and safety harmonisation

Information on laws that have been put in place to help harmonise occupational health and safety across Australia.

Australian governments have put in place laws to harmonise occupational health and safety laws across Australia, helping to provide equal protection and standards to workers in each jurisdiction. These laws are part of national reform to occupational health and safety and are the result of extensive consultation and a national review.

National Review into Model Occupational Health and Safety laws 2008/2009

A review into model occupational health and safety laws took place in 2008. The review was conducted by an advisory panel chaired by Robin Stewart-Crompton, with Barry Sherriff and Stephanie Mayman as panel members.

The panel reported to the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council on the optimal structure and content of a model occupational health and safety act that would be capable of being adopted in all jurisdictions.

The panel produced two reports for the review:

The Public submissions into the review are also available.

Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council (WRMC)

From the National Review into Model Occupational Health and Safety Laws the advisory review panel made 232 recommendations, which were put forward to WRMC for consideration.

On 18 May 2009 the Council agreed to a framework for uniform OHS laws which would address the disparate and inconsistent OHS laws across jurisdictions, setting the policy parameters for developing a model Act. Overall, the provisions that would be included in the model OHS Act would lead to enhanced safety protections for Australian employees and greater certainty for employers.

WRMC considered and responded to the recommendations of the National Review into Model OHS Laws (the Review) and in so doing, decided on the optimal structure and content of a model OHS Act to be adopted by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. The WRMC response is available.

Model Work Health and Safety Act

The Model Work Health and Safety Act forms the basis of the WHS Acts being enacted across Australia to harmonise work health and safety law. For the Act to be legally binding it needs to be enacted or passed by Parliament in each jurisdiction. Information on each jurisdiction’s progress in implementing the new laws can be found here on the Safe Work Australia website.

The Model Work Health and Safety Act provide model laws to be enacted in each jurisdiction, allowing for minor variations where necessary to achieve consistency with other laws and processes. Most jurisdictions have now developed legislation to give effect to the Model Work Health and Safety Act, including the Commonwealth.

The Model Work Health and Safety Act is the result of extensive consultation and was released for public comment in September 2009. It was endorsed by the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council on 11 December 2009 and finalised in June 2011.

More information on the Model Work Health and Safety Act is available from Safe Work Australia.

Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act

The Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act implements the Model Work Health and Safety Act in the Commonwealth jurisdiction, helping to form a system of nationally harmonised work health and safety laws.

The Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act was passed in Parliament on 24 November 2011 and received Royal Assent on 29 November 2011. The Commonwealth implemented the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws (WHS Act, WHS Regulations and first stage Codes of Practice on 1 January 2012 in accordance with the timetable established by the Council of Australian Governments. It applies to business conducted by the Commonwealth and public authorities, and for a transitional period, non-Commonwealth licensees.

An exposure draft of the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Bill was released for public comment in May 2011. A copy of the Issues Paper is available.

The bill was also referred to the Senate for inquiry and report.

The Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Bill, Explanatory Memorandum and Transitional and Consequential Provisions Bill are available from the Parliament of Australia website.

More information on the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act, Regulations and Codes of Practice are available from Comcare.