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.
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Top stories for Workplace health & safety regulations

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Misunderstanding causes lifelong damage to worker

Workplace health & safety regulations

SafeWork NSW has successfully prosecuted a director of a cleaning chemicals manufacturer for permanently scarring an employee with highly corrosive acid that splashed onto his skin. The company, B&J Industries, failed to ensure that the worker was provided with personal […]

By Portner Press on March 5th, 2020

20 years’ prison for bosses under new WA laws

Workplace health & safety regulations

The Western Australian parliament is debating the proposed new Work Health & Safety Bill 2019 (the Bill), which is intended to make the State’s WHS laws more consistent with the rest of Australia. The laws will largely adopt the Model […]

By Michael Selinger on February 27th, 2020

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 February 27th, 2020

‘No jab, no job’ workers told

Workplace health & safety regulations

Under new Victorian laws, it is now mandatory for all frontline healthcare workers to be vaccinated against the flu, chicken pox, hepatitis B, measles and whooping cough. These laws apply to workers in public and private hospitals and ambulance services […]

By Portner Press on February 25th, 2020

Your questions answered: What is ‘a prescribed person’ and ‘a person of a prescribed class’?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q The NSW Work Health & Safety Act 2011 and the federal Work Health & Safety Act 2011 refer to ‘a prescribed person’ and ‘a person of a prescribed class’? These aren’t in the definitions. What does this mean? A […]

By Portner Press on February 25th, 2020

Your questions answered: Do we have to supervise children our staff bring to work?

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 January 28th, 2020

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