Discussion paper

Model act for occupational health and safety

Public health Well-being Medicine Australia

The purpose of the model Act is to develop a clear and stable legislative framework of Occupational Health and Safety rights and obligations that will endure over time and be capable of application in all jurisdictions.

In July 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) formally committed to the harmonisation of OHS legislation by signing an Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety (IGA).

The IGA outlines the commitment of all states and territories and the Commonwealth to work together to develop and implement model Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation as the most effective way to achieve harmonisation of OHS laws in Australia, and commits each government to pass their own laws that mirror the model OHS laws by December 2011.

An independent panel has reviewed OHS laws in each state, territory and the Commonwealth and made recommendations to the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council (WRMC) on the optimal structure and content of a Model OHS Act that can be adopted in all jurisdictions. This review (National OHS Review) was completed in January 2009, resulting in two reports available at: www.nationalohsreview.gov.au

On 18 May 2009, WRMC responded to the National OHS Review recommendations, taking into account public submissions, and requested that Safe Work Australia commence development of the model legislation based on the WRMC decisions. 

Safe Work Australia is an independent body established on 1 July 2009. Its primary function is to progress harmonisation of OHS laws in partnership with governments, employers and workers, who are represented on the Safe Work Australia Council. On 7 September 2009 the Senate passed without amendments the Safe Work Australia Bill 2008 [No. 2] which will enable Safe Work Australia to be established as an independent statutory agency.

On 25 September 2009, WRMC agreed to release an exposure draft of the model OHS Act for public comment.

This document outlines the provisions contained in the exposure draft of the model Act and aims to elicit public comment on specific areas of the model Act where WRMC did not provide a policy position or where there is a need to resolve practical implementation issues identified during the drafting process. 

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