Review of the model Work Health and Safety laws: final report

Occupational health and safety Public safety Australia

Over the last year I have had the privilege of consulting with businesses, workers, unions, employer associations, industry associations, health and safety representatives (HSRs), legal practitioners, academics, government agencies, non-government agencies and regulators in undertaking the first five-year review of the model WHS laws.

Consistent with the Terms of Reference (at Appendix B), I have examined the content and operation of the model WHS laws and identified where I consider that amendments are needed and further analysis is necessary. I have at all times focused on the object of the model WHS Act (s 3 of the model WHS Act) as I examined each of the three tiers of the laws, assessing whether they are operating as intended, creating unintended consequences or failing to deal with current work arrangements or working conditions. I paid particular attention to those provisions which were new to most jurisdictions following the enactment of the laws. These included key elements of the duties framework; the compliance and enforcement provisions; and the consultation, representation, participation and issue resolution provisions. I considered carefully the provisions dealing with prosecution and legal proceedings to ensure that they continue to act as a deterrent where breaches of the model WHS laws are proven. Critically, I also assessed the extent to which the model WHS Regulations, model Codes and National Compliance and Enforcement Policy (NCEP) work together to support the object of the model WHS Act.

It is clear to me from the feedback received during this Review that the model WHS laws are, for the most part, working as intended, but they are still settling.

The harmonisation of WHS laws across the country is an ambitious objective. It has largely been achieved and remains strongly supported. Most of those consulted over the last year urged the Government of Victoria and Government of Western Australia to adopt the model WHS laws as a matter of urgency and other jurisdictions to minimise variations to the model wherever possible. If the harmonisation objective is to be sustained into the future, it is critical that all jurisdictions commit to it.

This report contains 34 recommendations. The report is divided into seven chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Legislative framework
  • Chapter 2: Duties of care
  • Chapter 3: Consultation, representation and participation
  • Chapter 4: Compliance and enforcement
  • Chapter 5: National Compliance and Enforcement Policy
  • Chapter 6: Prosecutions and legal proceedings, and
  • Chapter 7: Model Work Health and Safety Regulations
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