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Model work health and safety laws


  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth) – Items 1, 2 & 6

Contributing to

  • Corporate plan—strategy 4
  • Operational plan—activity 1


  • The 2018 review of the model WHS laws was completed.
  • We reviewed and published 13 model Codes of Practice.
  • We published guidance material to support small businesses understand officers duties.


  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • Council of Australian Governments
  • WHS ministers
  • Independent laws reviewer
  • WHS regulators
  • Employer associations
  • Unions
  • WHS professionals
  • Industry associations
  • Business
  • Occupational hygienists
  • Community organisations

‘A single set of laws that provides a balanced and nationally consistent framework to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces.’

Implementation of the model WHS laws

The model WHS laws have been implemented in the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The model WHS laws are yet to be implemented in Victoria and Western Australia. However, Western Australia undertook consultations throughout 2018 on the drafting of a new WHS law based on the model WHS Act. It is anticipated that a bill to give effect to the model laws in WA will be introduced to state parliament sometime in 2019.

2018 review of model WHS laws

Ms Marie Boland completed the independent review of the model WHS laws in 2018 (the 2018 Review). The final report of the 2018 Review was provided to WHS ministers on 18 December 2018 and published on our website on 25 February 2019. The final report makes 34 recommendations, including actions WHS ministers may take to improve the model WHS laws and identifying areas for further review. More information about the 2018 Review process can be found in Feature story: Delivering on the objectives of the model WHS laws.

The decision RIS for the recommendations of the 2018 Review will be provided to WHS ministers for consideration towards the end of 2019.

Review of model Codes of Practice

Safe Work Australia Members agreed that the model Codes of Practice would be reviewed every five years, focused on addressing any technical errors or out-of-date information, and anything that makes information in the model Codes difficult to access, understand or apply.

Following publication of the first 10 reviewed Codes in May 2018, Safe Work Australia published the remaining 13 reviewed Codes in October 2018. The newly published model Codes are:

  • How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace
  • Hazardous manual tasks
  • How to safely remove asbestos
  • Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work
  • Safe design of structures
  • Managing the risk of falls at workplaces
  • Managing the risk of falls in housing construction
  • Excavation work
  • Confined spaces
  • Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals
  • Demolition work
  • Managing electrical risks in the workplace, and
  • Spray painting and powder coating.

Guidance on officer duty

Safe Work Australia conducted an evaluation of available officer duty guidance, which indicated that the term ‘officer’ and the role of officers under the model WHS Act was not well understood, particularly by small business. Small business wanted simple information to assist them to identify who is an officer in their business, and what exactly that person has to do to meet their duty of due diligence under the model WHS Act.

To address this, Safe Work Australia released a suite of national guidance material in December 2018 on how officers can meet their due diligence obligations. This includes:

  • two short videos and factsheets aimed at assisting small business owners to understand who is an officer in their business and what their duties are under the model WHS laws
  • a new guide, The health and safety duty of an officer, which revised and replaced the existing Interpretative Guidelines—model Work Health and Safety Act—the health and safety duty of an officer under section 27, and
  • improvements to the accessibility of information, including developing a new officer duty webpage to consolidate this guidance.

Guidance on supporting workers with endometriosis in the workplace

Safe Work Australia published a fact sheet Supporting workers with endometriosis in the workplace (the fact sheet) as part of the priority set out in the 2018 National Action Plan on Endometriosis (the National Action Plan) to improve awareness and education of endometriosis in a professional setting.

Workers with endometriosis can experience a range of challenges in the workplace that can affect their capacity to work safely, including fatigue and increased stress when managing symptoms.

The primary duty in the model WHS Act requires a person conducting a business or undertaking to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers while they are at work in the business or undertaking. Workers have a duty to take reasonable care of their health and safety and not adversely affect others’ health and safety. The fact sheet outlines a range of strategies persons conducting a business or undertaking and workers can adopt to meet their WHS duties by better managing the condition in the workplace. These strategies include flexible working hours, access to sick leave or other changes to working arrangements.

The fact sheet has attracted a high level of interest and has also been picked up by Endometriosis Australia.

Guidance on storage of hazardous chemicals

Safe Work Australia published a guide on managing risks of storing chemicals in the workplace. The guide is tailored towards small to medium businesses, and provides plain English guidance on some of the common health and safety risks of storing chemicals and shows ways to manage those risks.

The guide includes a handy storage checklist that sets out the standard precautions businesses should take and a detailed chart that shows which types of chemicals to separate and by how far.

The guide was very well received by small to medium business, who have been asking for simple, easy-to-follow guidance in this to help them manage risks arising from storage of chemicals.