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Overview of the WHS Act and Regulations

Release Date

15 February 2012

Overview of the WHS Act and Regulations

The Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations came into effect on 1 January 2012.

In addition to the WHS laws, there are also model Codes of Practice which provide support and guidance on different issues in work health and safety.

Model Act
 

The Model Work Health and Safety Act can be viewed on the Safe Work Australia website (PDF). The Model Act was endorsed by the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council (representing all Australian jurisdictions) and is the template for harmonised WHS legislation in each jurisdiction.


Other important and useful documents (PDF) which can be viewed on the Safe Work Australia website include:
• the Explanatory Memorandum to the Act
• Interpretative Guidelines and
• Transitional Principles for Implementing the model WHS Act (these ‘…set out how arrangements under existing work health and safety (WHS) legislation are intended to transition to the new system’).

Regulations

The Model Regulations to Workplace Health and Safety Act were endorsed in principle on 10 August 2011 by the jurisdictional stakeholders. These form the template for harmonised Regulations in the various jurisdictions.

The harmonised Work Health and Safety Regulations commenced in New South Wales, Queensland, the ACT and the NT on 1 January 2012. Queensland has modified the Regulations in a number of ways and the ACT has not adopted several Parts of the model Regulations. Transitional arrangements applying to the Regulations were announced on 10 November 2011. The new arrangements allow a 12-month delay in commencement, where the new laws result in a ‘new or significantly different set of duties’.

Each jurisdiction, when enacting their own regulations, determines to which regulations the transitional arrangements should be applied.

Codes of Practice


Eleven model Codes of Practice (COP) have been approved by Safe Work Australia and the Ministerial Council. These have commenced in the harmonised jurisdictions (NSW, QLD, ACT, NT and the Commonwealth). These are also able to be viewed on the Safe Work Australia website:

  1. How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks
  2. Hazardous Manual Tasks 
  3. Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces 
  4. Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals 
  5. Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemical 
  6. Confined Spaces 
  7. Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work 
  8. Managing the Work Environment and Facilities 
  9. Work Health and Safety Consultation Cooperation and Coordination 
  10. How to Safely Remove Asbestos 
  11. How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace
Note that individual jurisdictions may also have retained existing Codes of Practice (eg Qld, NSW, ACT) or developed new additional codes (eg Queensland has approved its own Recreational Diving, Recreational Technical Diving and Snorkelling Code of Practice).

There are a number of other model Codes of Practice which are set to be released in 2012. They are currently being revised after public comment. These are:
  1. First Aid in the Workplace 
  2. Construction Work 
  3. Preventing Falls in Housing Construction 
  4. Managing Electrical Risks at the Workplace 
  5. Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals 
  6. Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace 
  7. Safe Design of Building and Structures 
  8. Excavation Work 
  9. Demolition Work 
  10. Spray Painting and Powder Coating 
  11. Abrasive Blasting 
  12. Welding and Allied Processes 
  13. Safe Access in Tree Trimming and Arboriculture 
  14. Preventing and Managing Fatigue in the Workplace 
  15. Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying
     

Progress of the legislation — by jurisdiction
 

Progress of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation in each jurisdiction, as at 2 February is summarised below.
 

Australian Capital Territory

 

Work Health and Safety Act 2011 commenced 1 January 2012.


Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 commenced 1 January 2012, however a number of Parts will commence at various later dates.
 

Commonwealth


Work Health and Safety Act 2011 commenced 1 January 2012.


Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 commenced 1 January 2012.
 

New South Wales

 

Work Health and Safety Act 2011 commenced 1 January 2012.


Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 commenced 1 January 2012.
 

Northern Territory

 

Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011

Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Implementation Act 2011

Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Regulations

The Acts and Regulations commenced on 1 January 2012.
 

Queensland

 

Work Health and Safety Act 2011 commenced 1 January 2012.


Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 commenced 1 January 2012.
 

South Australia


Debate on the Bill adjourned until 14 February 2012.
 

Tasmania

 

Bill introduced into House of Assembly 18 October 2011. The Bill has been amended in the Legislative Council to change the commencement date to 1 January 2013.

 

Victoria

 

Currently considering the model Bill; no legislation yet introduced.

 

Western Australia

 

Has indicated that it is seeking further time.

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