Australian OH&S Laws and Regulations

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Impact of Harmonised OHS Laws and Regulations

Australia is currently working toward harmonisation of OH&S laws and regulations relating to workplace health and safety across the country, with the aim to reduce accident, injury, illness and death at work. As these changes are set to come into effect during 2012, the laws will alter the current situation (which involves every state and territory hosting the sole responsibility of formulating and implementing their own OHS laws). In addition to state law, the Commonwealth also has a separate set of laws which has impacted the ability to understand and navigate the Australian OHS sector. Though legislation between the states and commonwealth is similar is writing, there were both minor and major differences in the application, detail and subsequently, the outcome for employers and employees.

Government OHS Act

While the government has been working on the National Standards and Codes of Practice for well over two decades there was yet to be any binding obligation or streamlined set of regulations. The time frame that was given to territories and states was December 2011. By this date the new OHS laws and regulations titled the WHS Act and WHS Regulations were to be enacted. Fast-forward to today and we can see that this legislation is yet to be in effect Australia wide.

Current State of OHS Regulation Effect

OH&S Laws and Regulations – Commonwealth

The Commonwealth adopted both the Workplace Health and Safety Act and the Model WHS Regulations on 1 January 2012. The Commonwealth has also adopted all of the approved Model Codes of Practice (1 January 2012).

OH&S Laws and Regulations – Australian Capital Territory

The ACT adopted both the Workplace Health and Safety Act and the Model WHS Regulations on 1 January 2012. The ACT has also adopted most of the approved Model Codes of Practice (1 January 2012).

OH&S Laws and Regulations – New South Wales

New South Wales adopted both the WHS Act and the Model WHS Regulations on 1 January 2012. The Act was included for mining operations however the Regulations were delayed for mining operations. NSW also adopted all of the Model Codes of Practice on 1 January 2012 (which were included for mining).

OH&S Laws and Regulations – Queensland

Queensland took a similar position to NSW adopting both the Model Workplace Health and Safety Act and the Model WHS Regulations on 1 January 2012 (both delayed for mining operations). Queensland also adopted all of the Model Codes of Practice which were implemented on 1 January 2012.

OH&S Laws and Regulations – South Australia

Currently South Australia has placed the WHS Act Bill before parliament and is expected to have effect by 1 January 2013. The Model WHS Regulations and Codes of Practice are pending release by SA.

OH&S Laws and Regulations – Victoria

Victoria currently has no WHS Act Bill before parliament but the date for commencement is expected to be 1 January 2013. The Model WHS Regulations and Codes of Practice are pending release by VIC.

OH&S Laws and Regulations – Western Australia

Western Australia currently has no WHS Act Bill before parliament but the date for commencement is expected to be 1 January 2013. The Model WHS Regulations and Codes of Practice are pending release by WA.

OH&S Laws and Regulations – Northern Territory

The Northern Territory adopted both the Model WHS Act and Model WHS Regulations which commenced on 1 January 2012.* The NT also adopted all the Model Codes of Practice which begun on 1 January 2012, with prior mining codes retained until 1 March 2012.

*These were both delayed for mining operations until 1 March 2012.

OH&S Laws and Regulations – Tasmania

Currently Tasmania has placed the WHS Act Bill before parliament and is expected to have effect by 1 January 2013. The Model WHS Regulations and Codes of Practice are pending release by TAS.

Occupational Health and Safety Video

The following video shows the key issues for transitioning a business to the model laws. The video explains what the laws are, issues arising from the process and key changes faced by parties involved. The video also looks at what employers can consider when they prepare to change.

Impact Of Workplace Health and Safety Laws On Employers

The new OHS WHS laws allow Australia to improve the safety of Australian workplaces and lay a fresh foundation for years to come. Many businesses will be affected by the new laws which aim to identify hazards and implement change in the current workplace situation. Employers need to ensure if they are operating in one of the newly harmonised states or territories that they are compliant with the new laws. Employers who are located in an area yet to harmonise are currently unaffected. However, if your business is providing a service within a harmonised area you should check that you remain compliant within this area. However, as a business you should aim to have throughout occupational health and safety practices implemented to safeguard yourself as an employer and your employees from both potential hazards and the future implementation of harmonised laws.

What are your thoughts on Australia’s harmonisation of laws? Do you think they will lower the rate of accident, injury, illness and death seen in workplaces? Leave a comment below!

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