Over the past 20 years there have been efforts to make work health and safety laws and regulations more consistent by developing Australian National Standards and Codes of Practice.
This issue has been addressed through an intergovernmental (IGA) agreement in 2008 where governments from each state and territory and the Commonwealth formally committed to the harmonisation of Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws.
The IGA also established a new independent body to drive the development and implementation of model WHS laws. On 3 April 2009, the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council (WRMC) endorsed the creation of Safe Work Australia.
An independent panel reviewed WHS laws in each state, territory and the Commonwealth. The panel advised WRMC on the optimal structure and content of a Model Work Health and Safety Act that can be adopted in all jurisdictions.
WHS harmonisation has four components:
- harmonisation of principal WHS Acts
- harmonisation of WHS regulations
- development and adoption of Codes of Practice
- nationally consistent compliance and enforcement policies.
The harmonisation of WHS laws across Australia aims to reduce the incidence of work-related death, injury and illness. Regardless of where they work, workers are entitled to the same standards and protections.
It will also be easier for businesses and workers to comply with their work health and safety duties because the requirements will largely be the same, regardless of how many states and territories they operate in.
On 1 January 2012 most states and territories and the Commonwealth will transition to WHS laws. For the Commonwealth this will include the WHS Act 2011, Regulations and Codes of Practice.
For further information on the WHS Act 2011, Regulations and Codes, please review the following pages: