Model OHS Law

In February 2006 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to a new National Reform Agenda. One of the agreed outcomes was to achieve harmonisation of OHS legislation across Australia by January 1, 2012. 

The harmonisation process involved the development of a model regulatory package - an Act, Regulations and Codes of Practice - which would then be endorsed by all of Australia's jurisdictions, and enacted in law.

The Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2009 was endorsed by the Workplace Relations Ministers' Council (WRMC) on 11 December 2009.  By December 1, 2011, the Model WHS Regulations were endorsed by the WRMC, as were a number of Codes of Practice. There are more codes at various stages of the process (being developed, out for public comment, or being considered for endorsement).

January 1, 2012

This was the agreed commencement date. However, while a number of jurisdictions have proceeded with the passing of the relevant Bills to implement the model WHS legislative package, the Victorian, Western Australian and South Australian governments have decided to delay the implementation of the model laws.

The Victorian government decided, in September 2011, that it would not be ready to proceed on January 1, 2012, and announced it would conduct a 'supplementary assessment' on the impacts of the model laws.This is currently underway. According to WorkSafe Victoria, "This analysis will inform the Government's decision on the direction of harmonisation for Victoria." In the meantime, WorkSafe, in consultation with employer and union stakeholders, is maintaining its involvement in the National Health and Safety Reform agenda. In April, the government announced that it would not be progressing with the implementation of the WHS regulatory package.

This means that for Victorian workers and health and safety representatives, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004), the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (2007) and the various Compliance Codes remain in force. Victorian HSRs whose employer has dealings with employers/companies covered by Comcare, may need extra information. More information on Victoria.  

Other jurisdictions

The following jurisdictions have passed the necessary bills to proceed with implementation of the harmonised legislative package on January 1, 2012. However, what this means in each jurisdiction is different and there are also various transitional arrangements in place. Go to the website of the relevant state or territory (below) to get more specific information. Each jurisdiction has information, and a a range of guidance material.

Western Australia: had also not proceeded with the implementation of the WHS model laws by January 1, 2012 -  to have more time to analyse the full impact of the model laws). On 12 August 2014, the Minister for Commerce, announced that a Western Australian version of the model workplace health and safety (WHS) bill would be introduced shortly into State Parliament.  The "green bill", was released on 23 October, for a consultation period of three months - however there has been no news since. Go to this page for Western Australia's current OHS Legislation and here to access the WA Work Health and Safety Bill 2014

South Australia: see the state's Work Health and Safety Act (2012), and the Regulations. More information: SafeWork SA

Tasmania: the new WHS laws commenced on January 1, 2013. For more information go to Tasmania's Workplace Standards Work Health Safety Laws page.

Please go to specific items below to access more information and links to the Model Act, Regulations and Codes of Practice.

Last amended April 2021