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Work health and safety policy

At its most basic, policy is 'a course or principle of action, adopted or proposed by a government, party, business or individual' (Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary). There are other institutions beyond this definition.

The term is used in many different ways, varying from institution to institution, organisation to organisation and sometimes within institutions and organisations as well. It can be hard to pin down, but there are some central features common to all good policy:

  • it states matters of principle
  • it is focussed on action, stating what is to be done and by whom
  • it is an authoritative statement, made by a person or body with power to do so.

Above all, good policy is a tool that makes administration easier, and allows people to get on with the organisation’s core business more efficiently and effectively. 1

The Work Health and Safety Act (2011) states that while at work, a worker must cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedure of the person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) relating to health or safety at the workplace that has been notified to workers.

In addition, under the Work, Health and Safety Regulations (2011) there are specific work health and safety policy obligations for safety management systems of major hazard facilities.

Therefore it’s important that a Work Health and Safety policy contains your statement of general policy on health and safety at work and the organisation and arrangements in place for putting that policy into practice.


Information sourceContents
UK Health and Safety Executive – Do you have any information on how to compile a health and safety policy?Information on the formulation of health and safety policies from the United Kingdom. It should be noted any laws mentioned do not relate to Australia and this information is voluntary guidance only.
Australian Public Service Commission—Governance Training ModuleTraining module specific to governance in the context of the Australian Public Service.
Safe Work Australia—Frequently Asked Questions: OfficersCommonly asked questions relating to officers and responsibilities with respect to managing responsibilities under the Work Health and Safety Act (2011).
Code of Practice—How to Manage Work Health and Safety RisksThis code provides practical guidance for people who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety.
Comcare—Guidance document for officers in exercising due diligenceGuidance documentation for officers responsible for exercising due diligence.
Page last updated: 23 Aug 2017