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


NT executives can face life imprisonment under new industrial manslaughter laws

Workplace health & safety regulations

The NT government has said it will introduce industrial manslaughter laws in the state within one year. Under these new laws, company officers found guilty of conduct that negligently or recklessly causes the death of a worker can face a […]

By Portner Press on August 20th, 2019

Boral enters into enforceable undertaking with SafeWork NSW

Workplace health & safety regulations

The recent enforceable undertaking entered into by Boral highlights how tackling new and emerging risks in an industry can present as an attractive offering to a regulator. Boral were involved in a serious incident in 2016, when bearing housing collapsed […]

By Michael Selinger on August 16th, 2019

Your questions answered: How high can we stack empty pallets?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q What is the height restriction/distance from wall allowance for empty CHEP pallet storage stacking? This is placed at the end of the warehouse where there is forklift traffic and minimal pedestrian traffic. We are based in South Australia. A […]

By Portner Press on August 8th, 2019

Should businesses be able to insure against WHS penalties?

Workplace health & safety regulations

The debate about whether businesses and individuals should be able to insure against or be indemnified for WHS penalties will increase following the recommendation in the recent WHS Review to outlaw such insurance. The debate is even more critical with […]

By Portner Press on August 1st, 2019

OHS training company fined $200k for fraud

Workplace health & safety regulations

WorkSafe Victoria has convicted and fined an occupational health and safety training provider for falsifying records. Sunshine Magistrates’ Court heard that ATTA Quality Training Services Pty Ltd had falsified notices of assessment for students who attended forklift and basic scaffolding […]

By Portner Press on July 30th, 2019

Contractor fined $450K for failing to manage ‘glaringly obvious’ fall risk

Workplace health & safety regulations

A principal contractor has been convicted and fined $450,000 for failing to manage a “glaringly obvious” fall risk at a construction site, which led to a worker’s death. NSW District Court Judge Wendy Strathdee found Sitao (Tom) Zhang, director of […]

By Portner Press on July 23rd, 2019

Your questions answered: What are notifiable incidents in an aged care home?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q Could you please advise on whether we need to notify the health and safety regulator in the following two scenarios? If an aged care home is subjected to an outbreak of influenza or gastro where the origin or cause […]

By Portner Press on July 23rd, 2019

Your questions answered: What manual handling training do disability support workers need?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q Please could you tell me the basic requirements needed for disability support workers to commence working with us in in regards to manual handling training with customers? Our organisation is based in Queensland. A From a work health and […]

By Portner Press on July 12th, 2019

Your questions answered: What are the health and safety requirements for a small business?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q Could you please advise what the requirements for a small business are in relation to the need for health & safety policies?  Which policies should we have in place for our staff? A Generally, most workplaces should at least […]

By Portner Press on July 11th, 2019

Your questions answered: What are the requirements for tractor-mounted forklifts?

Workplace health & safety regulations

Q What are the requirements for tractor-mounted forklifts? Q: We have the following questions about the tractor-mounted forklifts used on our vineyards (they are never used on public roads): 1. Do operators need a forklift license? 2. What standard (if […]

By Portner Press on July 4th, 2019