While legislation sets out the general obligations on persons to ensure safety, Work Health and Safety Regulations provide more detailed duties and rules. They are sometimes called subordinate legislation or statutory rules. They often impose civil penalties for non-compliance. Regulations expand on the general obligations set out in the legislation. They normally contain detailed provisions that specify:
  • the general working environment;
  • hazardous work, such as demolition and electrical work;
  • displaying signs and reporting incidents;
  • plant and structures;
  • construction work; and
  • hazardous chemicals.
Regulations are laws, and as such are legally binding. What do regulations cover? Work health and safety regulations in all jurisdictions address health and safety issues, hazards and other requirements, including things like what is unsafe or high-risk work, who is allowed to enter your premises for WHS purposes, any risk management processes, and what determines a major hazard facility. Regulations also stipulate that employers have an obligation to provide employees with information, training and instruction as well as creating and maintaining a safe work environment. Employers must also address first aid requirements, emergency plans and procedures. Regulations also address the following areas relating to work activities involving risk:
  • supplying personal protective equipment;
  • performing remote or isolated work;
  • working in a hazardous environment;
  • storing flammable or combustible substances;
  • managing risks related to falling objects;
  • maintaining safe and reasonable noise levels
  • working in confined spaces;
  • working at heights;
  • electrical safety;
  • maintenance, repair and construction of plant and structures; and
  • asbestos and asbestos removal.
If your business is involved in any activity covered by the regulations, you need to keep up to date with any new or changed obligations. Code of practice A code of practice is an instrument made under health and safety legislation that is designed to provide practical guidance about discharging your duty of care. The Commonwealth, NSW, Queensland, NT, the ACT, SA and Tasmania follow the WHS model codes of practice. Victoria and WA follow their own compliance codes and codes of practice. In Victoria, codes of practice are called ‘compliance codes’. A code of practice is a practical guide to achieving the standards required under health and safety laws. Codes of practice are not legally binding (except in Victoria) but a safety regulator can rely on your failure to follow a code of practice to demonstrate your business’s failure to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure health and safety. In this instance, ‘reasonable practicable’ refers to what is reasonably able to be done when ensuring health and safety, taking into account and weighing all the relevant matters, including:
  1. the likelihood of the hazard or risk occurring;
  2. the degree of harm that may result from the hazard or risk;
  3. what the person concerned knows or ought reasonably to know about:
  4. the hazard or risk; and
  5. ways of eliminating or minimising the risk;
  6. the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and
  7. the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.
Because there are some changes between jurisdictions in the Work Health and Safety Act, regulations and codes, it is wise to consult your local regulation on the differences before assuming that one set of rules applies nation-wide.

Top stories for Workplace health & safety regulations


Your questions answered: Is our national business required to have a health and safety representative in each state?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q We are a national company, but our head office is based in WA. Is it a requirement for us to have health and safety representatives (HSRs) in each state? Also, is it a requirement in every State for HSRs […]

By Portner Press on January 14th, 2020

WorkSafe Victoria charges absent supervisor over workplace death

Workplace health & safety regulations

  The importance of undertaking a risk assessment and consulting and co-ordinating work activities with other PCBUs has been highlighted in a significant prosecution commenced by WorkSafe Victoria this month in relation to a fatality in 2017 that occurred at […]

By Michael Selinger on December 19th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we request an HSR to attend a training course?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q Can a PCBU (e.g. a principal contractor) require a health and safety representative (HSR) to attend the 5-day course in health and safety consultation? We are based in NSW. A In NSW, section 72 of the Work Health and […]

By Portner Press on December 9th, 2019

NSW increases penalties for WHS breaches and bans indemnity insurance

Workplace health & safety regulations

  In an important step this month, the NSW Government has introduced amendments to the Work Health & Safety Act (NSW) to implement some key recommendations from the 2018 National WHS Review. One immediate change to affect all businesses and […]

By Michael Selinger on November 21st, 2019

Company fined $650K over labourer’s fatal 12-metre fall

Workplace health & safety regulations

  A concrete formwork company in Victoria has been fined a total of $650,000, following the death of a labourer who fell 12 metres off a work platform at a construction site. Concorp Group Pty Ltd, now in liquidation, was […]

By Portner Press on November 19th, 2019

Your questions answered: Do at-risk workers still need hearing tests if they relocate to noise-free environments?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q We complete hearing tests for at-risk workers every 2 years. We have a staff member, however, who was once exposed to noise, but now works solely in an office environment and has done so for the past eight years, […]

By Portner Press on November 19th, 2019

Your questions answered: Do you need a working at height licence when using a safety cage?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q When working at heights from a forklift working platform (safety cage) do you need a working at height licence or need to be trained internally? A Regarding high-risk licences, the worker who is working at heights from a forklift […]

By Portner Press on November 14th, 2019

Retailers urged to protect their workers during Christmas period

Workplace health & safety regulations

  The Victorian state government has urged retail employers to look after their staff over the busy Christmas period, as more casual workers are employed to meet customer demands. Over the next three months, WorkSafe Victoria inspectors will be visiting […]

By Portner Press on November 12th, 2019

Court has power to order compensation for injured workers

Workplace health & safety regulations

  In SafeWork NSW v MGK Constructions Pty Ltd (2019), an employer who was held liable for its employee falling from heights has avoided also being ordered to pay compensation to the injured worker, in addition to the fine of […]

By Michael Selinger on November 7th, 2019

Your questions answered: Are we obligated to install fire extinguishers in vehicles?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q Is it a requirement for us to provide all of our company vehicles with a fire extinguisher? A If the vehicle is carrying dangerous or hazardous goods, then yes. If not, there is only a requirement if: you assess […]

By Portner Press on November 7th, 2019