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Comcare's role under the WHS Act

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

Comcare administers the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 and is the national regulator for work health and safety.


The Work Health and Safety framework

Together, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 and approved Codes of Practice provide a framework to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces.

The framework can be applied to organisations and entities of varied sizes in different industries.

It protects workers and other people against harm to their health and safety by eliminating and minimising risks arising from work, so far as is reasonably practicable.

  • The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act):
    • establishes work health and safety duties
    • requires risks arising from work to be eliminated or minimised
    • provides for worker consultation, representation and participation relating to work health and safety matters
    • enables compliance with, and enforcement of, work health and safety laws through the regulator
    • provides for the making of Regulations and Codes of Practice to support the objectives of the WHS Act.
  • The Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 sets out the detailed requirements that must be applied to specific work activities and hazards to meet work health and safety duties.
  • The Codes of Practice provide practical information on how requirements of the laws may be met.

The framework is also supported by the Comcare Compliance and Enforcement Policy (PDF, 158.2 KB).

Work Health and Safety Amendment Act 2023

In March 2023, a bill containing a suite of amendments to the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 passed the Australian Parliament.

The changes under the Work Health and Safety Amendment Act 2023 came into effect on 21 September 2023 and include:

  • Broadening the Category 1 offence to include negligence as a fault element
  • Prohibiting insurance coverage for monetary penalties
  • Enhancing inspector powers
  • Extending the deadline for a person to request a prosecution, and strengthening requirements for Comcare to provide progress updates
  • Allowing Health and Safety Representatives to choose their own Comcare-approved training course.

The amendments implement recommendations of the 2018 review of the Model WHS Laws which looked at how the legislation was operating in practice.

More information:

Compliance and enforcement activities

As the national regulator, Comcare has functions and powers under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011, which include regulatory functions and powers for compliance and enforcement.

Comcare’s functions as the regulator include to:

  • monitor and enforce compliance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011.
  • provide advice and information to duty holders and the community.
  • foster a cooperative, consultative relationship between duty holders, workers and their representatives.
  • promote and support education and training on matters relating to work health and safety.
  • engage in, promote and coordinate the sharing of information to achieve the objectives of the Act, including the sharing of information with other health and safety regulators.
  • conduct and defend legal proceedings under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
  • collect, analyse and publish statistics.
  • promote public awareness and discussion of work health and safety matters in the community.

Our compliance and enforcement activities relate to the various duties and obligations organisations and people have under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. This includes the primary duty of care that ‘persons who conduct a business or undertaking’ (PCBU) have under the Act.

We also consider applications for authorisations and approvals, such as licences for major hazard facilities and approvals of health and safety representative training courses.

For more information, see our work health and safety activities and outcomes - year in review.


More information

Page last reviewed: 26 June 2024

Comcare
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 18 Jul 2024

https://www.comcare.gov.au/scheme-legislation/whs-act/comcare-role-whs-act