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Regulatory guide - Model work health and safety laws

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) and the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (WHS Regulations) are based on model work health and safety (WHS) laws.

Legislation based on the same model laws has been introduced by some states and territories.

1. Development of model WHS laws

In an Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety signed in July 2008, the Commonwealth and Australian states and territories committed to harmonising WHS laws in Australia.

A process of developing model WHS laws—comprised of a Model WHS Act, supported by Model WHS Regulations, Model Codes of Practice and a National Compliance and Enforcement Policy—then followed.

2. Implementation of model WHS laws

Once the components of the model WHS laws began to be finalised from 2011, each jurisdiction was able to implement the laws by passing legislation in their own Parliaments, incorporating minor variations as required.

The Commonwealth has implemented the model WHS laws by enacting the WHS Act and making the WHS Regulations. To date, the model WHS laws have also been implemented by a WHS Act and supporting regulations in each of the following states:

  • Australian Capital Territory
  • New South Wales
  • Northern Territory
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania.

This means that WHS duties, obligations and processes are consistent in these jurisdictions, subject to minor variations.

It is possible for the laws of different jurisdictions to apply concurrently. This is particularly significant for the Commonwealth, whose jurisdiction is not based on a defined territory.

Page last reviewed: 04 March 2020
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Date printed 29 Sep 2020