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Obligations and standards

Last updated January 2024

This chapter explains the health and safety legislation and regulations with which you must comply, and how codes and standards can help you meet your obligations.

Health and safety legislation

Each jurisdiction is responsible for making and enforcing laws about work health and safety.

Definition: Legislation

Legislation refers to the formal written laws made by Parliament. Legislation is sometimes called a statute or an Act of Parliament (an Act).

The Commonwealth and each state and territory have principal Acts:

  • Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act): The Commonwealth and every state and territory except Victoria operate under a WHS Act, based on the model WHS Act developed by Safe Work Australia. The Commonwealth WHS Act covers employees of the Commonwealth and Commonwealth authorities, including premises owned or controlled by the Commonwealth.
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (OHS Act): Victoria operates under the OHS Act. Victoria has decided not to harmonise its OHS Act with the national model WHS Act, although for practical purposes its terms are very similar.
Tip: You can find the model WHS Act here and the Victorian OHS Act here.

These Acts impose work health and safety duties on:

  • employers;
  • self-employed workers;
  • employees;
  • people who manage and control workplaces, e.g. managers and supervisors;
  • land owners;
  • contractors who engage other contractors, i.e. principal contractors;
  • manufacturers;
  • importers (except in Victoria);
  • suppliers of plant and substances; and
  • designers of plant, equipment or structures.