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Regulatory guide - Places and things under the WHS Act

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

We publish this regulatory guide to assist the organisations and entities we regulate.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) defines certain places and things.

The definitions apply for the purposes of both the WHS Act and the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (WHS Regulations).

1. Workplace

Section 8 of the WHS Act defines a ‘workplace’ as a place where work is carried out for a business or undertaking, including any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work. It is apparent that there may be multiple workplaces in relation to a worker or a business or undertaking.

The question of when a worker is considered to be ‘at work’ is relevant for section 8 and also in defining the scope of some health and safety duties, for example, sections 19 and 28.

For some specific types of worker, the WHS Act does state when they are ‘at work’ (see People under the WHS Act). However, there is no general definition of when a worker is ‘at work’. The concept is distinct from the concept of ‘workplace’. It may be that a worker is not ‘at work’ at all times when they are at a workplace.

2. Plant

‘Plant’ is defined to include:

  • any machinery, equipment, appliance, container, implement and tool
  • any component of any of those things
  • anything fitted or connected to any of those things.[1]

Plant may of itself be a ‘workplace’ if work is carried out on it.[2]

3. Substance

A ‘substance’ is any natural or artificial substance, whether in the form or a solid, liquid, gas or vapour.[3]

4. Structure

A ‘structure’ is anything that is constructed, whether fixed or moveable, temporary or permanent, and includes:

  • buildings, masts, towers, framework, pipelines, transport infrastructure and underground works (shafts or tunnels)
  • any component of a structure
  • part of a structure.

A structure may of itself be a ‘workplace’ if work is carried out on it.[4]


[1] WHS Act, section 4 definition of ‘plant’.

[2] See WHS Act, section 23(1)(a).

[3] WHS Act, section 4 definition of 'substance'.

[4] See WHS Act, section 23(1)(c).

Page last reviewed: 16 December 2019
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Date printed 02 Jul 2020