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: Are we responsible for an injured worker who is no longer employed with us?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q We recently held a farewell party for a staff member on her last day. At the party, she tripped over and injured herself. We conducted an investigation and I have contacted her to see that she is ok. I […]

By Portner Press on June 6th, 2019

Your questions answered: Do ladder rungs need a rating?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q In circumstances where a person is ascending a vertical ladder, using a full body harness/twin tail lanyard fall arrest system and using the ladder rungs as anchor points, do the ladder rungs have to be rated the same as […]

By Portner Press on June 4th, 2019

Your questions answered: Does WHS committee members need extra training?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q Our construction services company in NSW has just elected its first WHS committee. Do we have to provide anyone with official training to be a part of the WHS committee? The workers are highly trained in their roles for […]

By Portner Press on May 17th, 2019

Your questions answered: Is there a required ratio of workers to health and safety representatives?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q Are there specific guidelines or legal requirements that relate to the ratio of safety and health representatives to staff numbers in the workplace? If not, how can we ensure there is a sufficient number of representatives? We are based […]

By Portner Press on May 14th, 2019

Your questions answered: What obligations do we have to manage children in the workplace?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q We allow children of staff to be at our school during school holidays – but only when their parents are here. Should we allow these children to play on the playground equipment, use sporting facilities, etc., unsupervised? We are […]

By Portner Press on May 10th, 2019

Your questions answered: Are we required to report asbestos to regulators?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q What do we have to report to regulators about asbestos (both friable and non-friable) at our workplace? I have been told by some people that sites containing a minimum of 10 square metres of bonded asbestos have to be […]

By Portner Press on April 30th, 2019

Your questions answered: Are there age restrictions on heavy lifting?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q We have young workers (aged 15 years and over) working with us. Are there any age restrictions relating to heavy lifting? Our 15-year-old workers could be lifting around 12kg. A Safe Work Australia’s model codes of practice have been developed in […]

By Portner Press on April 16th, 2019

Unwary employers will now face BIGGER penalties

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q: Is Bluetooth enough, or do we need hands-free kits too?

By Michael Selinger on April 5th, 2019

KFC operator fined for young supervisors’ mistakes

Workplace health & safety regulations

Even if you have health and safety management systems in place in your organisation, if your workers fail to adhere to them, the employer can still be held liable.

By Portner Press on April 4th, 2019

Workers crushed to death while on a cigarette break

Workplace health & safety regulations

A supervising rigger for a crane hire company in WA has been fined $4,000 plus $10,000 costs following an accident where two workers were crushed to death.

By Portner Press on March 26th, 2019