Is Australia Moving Towards a Consistent Federal Standard for Work Health and Safety?

While business considers national uniformity of work health and safety (‘WHS’) laws to be ideal, Victoria and Western Australia have not yet adopted harmonised WHS legislations.

Harmonisation of WHS Laws

National enterprises with cross-state operations, in particular, would prefer to have all states and territories adopt the model WHS laws. New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, and the ACT began adopting the model laws on 1 January 2012 and Tasmania and South Australia took on the laws earlier this year.

Western Australia

The WA government has remained insistent that it would not adopt four areas of the model WHS laws. These are penalty levels, union right of entry, health and safety representatives’ capacity to direct the cessation of work, and reverse onus of proof in discrimination matters. WA will move closer to adopting the model WHS laws when it finalises the WHS Mines Regulations and Codes of Practice for Mining that have been developed by Safe Work Australia.

Victoria

The Victorian government has stated that it will not change from its existing safety laws. Note that the model WHS laws were based on Victoria’s occupational health and safety laws.

In summary, while most states and all territories have adopted the model laws, Victoria has no plans to adopt the framework and it may be sometime before Western Australia will adopt the model framework.

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