New work health and safety (WHS) laws
New work health and safety (WHS) laws commenced on 1 January 2012 in many states and territories to harmonise occupational health and safety (OH&S) laws across Australia.
WHS legislation includes a model WHS Act, regulations, Codes of Practice and a national compliance and enforcement policy. The model WHS Act is not significantly different from current occupational health & safety (OH&S) laws, but will make it easier for businesses and workers to comply with their requirements across different states and territories.
Each state and territory is responsible for regulating and enforcing WHS laws. Safe Work Australia is the national body in charge of developing work health and safety and workers’ compensation policy.
The following states and territories now use harmonised WHS legislation instead of previous OH&S laws:
- Australian Capital Territory
- The Commonwealth of Australia
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
Most remaining states are expected to move to the new model WHS Act by the start of 2013.
States and territories that have not yet implemented new WHS laws are still responsible for making and enforcing their own OH&S Act. These laws spell out the duties of different groups of people who play a role in workplace health and safety.
OH&S, WHS Regulations and Codes of Practice
Some workplace hazards can cause so much injury or disease that specific regulations or codes of practice are needed to control them. These regulations and codes explain the duties of particular groups of people in controlling these risks. There is a difference between regulations and codes:
- Regulations are legally enforceable
- Codes of Practice provide advice on how to meet regulatory requirements. Codes are not legally enforceable, but they can be used in courts as evidence that legal requirements have or have not been met.