In 2008, Workplace Relations Ministers from around Australia agreed to nationally harmonise work health and safety (WHS) laws. Safe Work Australia is currently developing national model WHS laws, which the Commonwealth and each State and Territory will implement by the end of 2011.
The ACT has agreed to implement these laws. The new Work Health and safety Act will replace the Work Safety ACT 2008. New regulations and codes of practice will also replace the existing regulations and codes of practice currently in force in the ACT.
Under harmonisation, each state and territory will still have its own health and safety legislation, which will be administered by its own WorkSafe / Workcover type body. There should only be very slight variations to that legislation between jurisdictions.
Current Version of the Model Legislation
The current version of the draft Model Work Health and Safety [WHS] Act can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia website.
The draft Model Work Health and Safety [WHS] Regulations and Codes of Practice are available for public comment and can also be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia website.
In July 2008, the Council of Australia Governments (COAG) formally committed to the harmonisation of OHS legislation by signing an Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in OHS.
The Agreement outlines the commitment of all states and territories and the Commonwealth to work together to develop and implement model OHS legislation as the most effective way to achieve harmonisation of OHS Laws in Australia. By reducing costs and eliminating unnecessary administrative processes, harmonisation is an initiative designed to make it easier for workers and for employers who conduct business across multiple states.
The Agreement also provides for the establishment of a new independent body to drive the development and implementation of the model OHS legislation. On 3 April 2009, the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council (WRMC) endorsed the creation of Safe Work Australia and the establishment of the Safe Work Australia Council.
An independent panel has reviewed OHS laws in each state, territory and the Commonwealth and advised WRMC on the optimal structure and content of a model OHS Act that can be adopted in all jurisdictions.
The National OHS Review panel provided two reports making recommendations on the optimal structure and content of a model OHS Act.
The First Report - October 2008. This report covered the regulatory context; duties of care; offences relating to breaches of duties of care; other matters relevant to duty of care offences; defences.
The Second Report - January 2009. This report covered objects and definitions; workplace consultation, participation, representation and protection; other health and safety obligations; the role of the regulator, of inspectors and of others in securing compliance; regulations, codes of practice and other matters.
WRMC made decisions in relation to the National OHS Review recommendations and provided Safe Work Australia with directions on the scope and content of the model Act in early April 2009.
On 28 September 2009, Safe Work Australia released the draft Model Laws for public comment. The draft laws can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia website.
The Model Act has now been endorsed by the Australian OHS jurisdictions with agreement to adopt the model law in each jurisdiction by 1 January 2012.
Work is now underway on a set of Model Regulations and Codes of Practice to accompany the Model Act.
The Model Act has already been endorsed by all of the Australian jurisdictions and is due to be passed into law in each state or territory at some point in 2011, to take effect from no later than 1 January 2012.
The proposed timeline for harmonisation is as follows:
Key features of the Model WHS Act, Regulations and Codes of Practice
Safe Work Australia will shortly release Fact Sheets on the following topics which cover some of the key features of the new legislation:
Resources available about the proposed changes in the ACT
As resources and information becomes available regarding the proposed changes here in the ACT, they will be made available here.
A series of free information sessions on the new harmonised laws has been scheduled for the following dates:
Click on the above links to register your attendance at one of these sessions. Registration is essential!