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


Contractor receives $45K in penalties for failing to manage fall risks

Workplace health & safety regulations

  No accident is necessary for WHS regulators to commence a safety breach prosecution. Last month, a principal contractor in Victoria was hit with a $35,000 fine plus $10,112 in costs for breaching the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Act […]

By Portner Press on October 18th, 2019

Your questions answered: How many consecutive days can someone work?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q We are a cable-laying company based out of Sydney but have worksites across Australia that are quite remote. Currently, we work an 11/3 roster, which works fine for local labour but is impractical for employees who live in a […]

By Portner Press on October 18th, 2019

Rollover protection for quad bikes may become mandatory

Workplace health & safety regulations

  The long-running debate over the safety of quad bikes in Australia may be set to end with the ABC News reporting this month that the Federal Government may be introducing laws requiring mandatory rollover protection for all new quad […]

By Michael Selinger on October 11th, 2019

Failure to manage fall risk results in prosecution of contractor

Workplace health & safety regulations

In the recent case of SafeWork NSW v Poletti Corporation Pty Ltd (2019), an installer of a jumpform screen system at a construction site unsuccessfully defended a work health & safety prosecution, when it was found that it had failed […]

By Michael Selinger on October 4th, 2019

Putting profits before safety costs company $210K

Workplace health & safety regulations

In SafeWork NSW vs ADN Investments Pty Ltd & Adnan Yassine (2019), the NSW District Court fined an excavation contractor $180,000 and its director $30,000 for failing to implement recommended safety measures to prevent the collapse of an adjacent building. […]

By Michael Selinger on September 27th, 2019

Your questions answered: What health and safety obligations do we have to workers we send overseas?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q If a company is in a state that operates under the WHS Act and it sends its workers overseas, is it expected to comply with the WHS Act for these workers? A The WHS provisions do not apply to […]

By Portner Press on September 26th, 2019

Your questions answered: How do we approach unhygienic employees?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q We receive many complaints about the men’s toilets. The complaints relate to urine on the floor, excessive pubic hairs in the urinals, excrement on the walls and floor, and boot marks on the toilet seats. To date, we have […]

By Portner Press on September 17th, 2019

SafeWork NSW seeks feedback on draft formwork code of practice

Workplace health & safety regulations

An increase in commercial and residential development across Australia has led to a spike in formwork and, in NSW, calls from SafeWork NSW for feedback on a draft formwork code of practice. Code of practice According to a press release […]

By Michael Selinger on September 12th, 2019

Your questions answered: What health and safety policies must we have?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q Which health & safety policies are compulsory for employers? Is there a minimum standard? A There is not a ‘set’ minimum standard for health and safety policies, as this changes based on the size, and nature, of each particular […]

By Portner Press on September 5th, 2019

WorkSafe Victoria issues $3,500 fine to spitting worker

Workplace health & safety regulations

WorkSafe Victoria has issued a $3,500 fine to a worker who spat at one of its inspectors when he attended a construction site in Melbourne. The inspector noticed while driving past the site that the workers were working at a […]

By Portner Press on September 3rd, 2019