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Health and safety legislation

Last updated March 2024 (previously named 'Introduction to health and safety legislation')

This chapter outlines the health and safety legislation in each jurisdiction in Australia, and what differences exist between jurisdictions.

What health and safety legislation must you comply with?

Every business in Australia must comply with the health and safety legislation that applies in their jurisdiction.

Every jurisdiction in Australia except Victoria has adopted a Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) based on the model WHS Act. Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) in these jurisdictions must comply with the relevant WHS Act.

Definition: Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU)

A PCBU is a person, corporation, partnership or association that conducts a business or undertaking. The business or undertaking can either be for profit or not-for-profit, and may be conducted by a single person or multiple people, e.g. in partnerships, each partner is a PCBU.

Businesses operating in Victoria are subject to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act).

Important: All health and safety legislation impose a general duty of care on PCBUs or employers to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of workers or employees and others affected by their business.

The legislation also set out additional obligations such as:

  • consultation obligations;
  • general duties of care of manufacturers, designers, suppliers, officers and workers; and
  • powers of safety inspectors and union officials to investigate workplace incidents.