national harmonisation work health and safety laws

In 2011, Safe Work Australia developed a single set of health and safety laws to be implemented across Australia. These are known as ‘model’ laws. This has created a balanced and nationally consistent framework to protect workers and secure better health and safety in the workplace.

Harmonisation of Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws was part of the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) National Reform Agenda that aimed to reduce the regulatory burden and create a seamless national economy. The formal harmonisation process started in 2008, with the model WHS Act formed in 2011. 

The objectives of harmonising WHS laws through a model framework were to:

  • protect the health and safety of workers
  • reduce compliance costs for business
  • improve safety outcomes in the workplace
  • improve efficiency for regulatory agencies.

Each state and territory has their own WHS regulator that sets out the requirements needed in order to achieve the standards set out in the WHS Act. The WHS Act and Regulation took effect on 1 January 2012 in New South Wales, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, and Queensland, with South Australia and Tasmania implementing it on 1 January 2013. 

On 12 July 2017, the Western Australia Government announced the development of a modernised WHS Act based on the national model WHS Act.

The national model WHS laws are currently under review as part of the original agreement to ensure that they continue to operate effectively. The review will determine how the model WHS laws are operating, and whether they are achieving the objectives as set out in the model WHS Act. A report will be provided to the WHS ministers in early 2019.

For more information about the WHS Act and Regulations, and how they apply to each state and territory, visit the Safe Work Australia website.

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