Work health and safety legislation

We administer and provide advice on the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.

If you are an employer or business (or other PCBU) you must comply with these laws to ensure the health and safety of your workers.

Our simple safety section explains these laws in plain English.

The WHS legislation is supported by our Compliance policy and prosecution guidelines, which supplements the National compliance and enforcement policy.

This information is general about the law only, and is not a statement of the law as it is applied to a particular problem or individual.

Seek legal advice if you need assistance on the application of the law to your situation.

Amendments to the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011

Amendments have been made to the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 to correct errors, clarify policy intent and addresses workability issues  and will not create a regulatory burden for NSW businesses.

The key changes are summarised on Safe Work Australia’s website and apply mainly to:

In addition licence fees will be increasing from 1 July 2015 by 2.5% in line with CPI and consistent with NSW Treasury’s - Guidelines for pricing of user charges.

The changes come into effect in NSW on 13 February 2015.

Please visit the New South Wales Legislation website to ensure you have the most up to date version of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.

Statutory review of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

The Better Regulation Division (BRD) is conducting a review of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) (the Act) provides a framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of all workers and others in relation to NSW workplaces and work activities. Reviews are scheduled once every five years. This is the first since the Act was introduced.

Objectives of the Act

The Act aims to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces by:

(a) protecting workers and other persons against harm to their health, safety and welfare through the elimination or minimisation of risks arising from work or from specified types of substances or plant

(b) providing for fair and effective workplace representation, consultation, co-operation and issue resolution in relation to work health and safety

(c) encouraging unions and employer organisations to take a constructive role in promoting improvements in work health and safety practices, and assisting persons conducting businesses or undertakings and workers to achieve a healthier and safer working environment

(d) promoting the provision of advice, information, education and training in relation to work health and safety

(e) securing compliance with the Act through effective and appropriate compliance and enforcement measures

(f) ensuring appropriate scrutiny and review of actions taken by persons exercising powers and performing functions under the Act

(g) providing a framework for continuous improvement and progressively higher standards of work health and safety

(h) maintaining and strengthening the national harmonisation of laws relating to work health and safety and to facilitate a consistent national approach to work health and safety in this jurisdiction.

The national model work health and safety laws

The Act is based on the ‘model’ Work Health and Safety Act developed by Safe Work Australia, the national body responsible for developing the model work health and safety laws in partnership with state and territory governments, employers and workers.

The aim of the model laws and their application across Australia is to harmonise the same standard of health and safety protection regardless of the work they do or where they work. A stronger national approach means greater certainty for businesses (particularly those operating across state borders). It also means clearer and more consistent responsibilities to make workplaces safer.

NSW and the model work health and safety laws

The model work health and safety laws apply in NSW and most other states and territories. NSW has enacted its own legislation that mirrors the model laws. In NSW and other jurisdictions, minor but necessary variations may be made to ensure consistency with relevant local drafting protocols and other laws and processes. These ‘variations’ in the NSW context are referred to as ‘NSW- specific provisions’.

The scope of this statutory review

Under section 276B of the Act the minister is required to conduct a review of the Act to determine whether the policy objectives remain valid and whether the terms appropriate for securing those objectives.

This review will examine the objectives of the Act and the NSW-specific provisions of both the Act and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (the Regulation). The review will also examine the NSW-specific codes of practice. These codes were introduced in NSW before the adoption of nationally harmonised work health and safety laws, which officially commenced in NSW on 1 January 2012.

The Council of Australian Governments will undertake a national review of the harmonised work health and safety laws and codes of practice in 2018. The NSW statutory review will therefore not incorporate an assessment of the national model work health and safety laws given the proposed national review.

How to have your say

This discussion paper was developed as a basis for consultation. Questions are posed throughout the discussion paper to guide consideration and feedback of key issues. Your views will inform the final-review report, due to be published in the first half of 2017.

For more information, please provide feedback via the form on the Have Your Say website or email legislationreview@safework.nsw.gov.au with the subject heading ‘NSW Statutory Review’ for more information.