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


How a duty of care applies differently to officers and managers

Workplace health & safety regulations

“As an officer, you have a duty under WHS laws to look for ways to lead on WHS matters.” - Safe Work Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Michelle Baxter

By Michael Selinger on February 14th, 2019

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Workplace health & safety regulations

In a recent Victorian Court of Appeal decision, the issue of what constitutes ‘reckless conduct’, as distinct from mere ‘negligence’, was an important factor in reducing the penalty imposed on a structural engineering company and its sole director.

By Michael Selinger on December 12th, 2018

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Workplace health & safety regulations

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Your questions answered: Can we charge workers for their PPE if they leave the company?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q: If a worker leaves the company within 3 months, can they be back-charged if it’s written into their employment contract that they pay the cost of PPE?

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Workplace health & safety regulations

Q: Would you recommend having desk lamps for an individual workstation? ls this allowed? Our business is based in New South Wales.

By Portner Press on December 6th, 2018

Your questions answered: What responsibilities do we have to workers and their families who live on our premises?

Workplace health & safety regulations

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Workplace health & safety regulations

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Employers can be responsible for employees of contractors too

Workplace health & safety regulations

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By Michael Selinger on November 9th, 2018

How HSRs affect your organisation

Workplace health & safety regulations

It is important to remember that the role of an HSR is not to fix health and safety problems, nor be an expert on Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) issues.

By Portner Press on November 2nd, 2018

Your questions answered: Do text messages suffice?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q: Do text messages suffice?

By Portner Press on November 2nd, 2018