OHS Harmonisation

Harmonisation of OHS laws in Australia is designed to provide all States and Territories with a consistent set of Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws. Safe Work Australia has developed a Model WHS Act, Model WHS Regulations and Model Codes of Practice that each State/Territory can use to implement consistent laws in their jurisdiction.

From January 2012, the harmonised laws were introduced in the ACT, NSW, QLD and NT. Harmonisation then took place in Tasmania and South Australia on the 1st of January 2013. These states have adopted the new terminology of WHS. Western Australia has said they will follow, although have not given a date. Victoria has said they will not be signing on to harmonised legislation at this time.

Here at SafetyCulture, we are committed to assisting workplaces operating in the states/territories that have already adopted the new laws. Every document in our extensive collection has been updated to comply with harmonised laws. Victoria and Western Australia have not adopted the new laws at this point. Until they do, both of these states will use their own existing legislation and guidance materials and will remain under the terminology of OHS.

SafetyCulture's updated documents will remain compliant with the existing laws in these States. Our documents are based on National and International Quality Standards such as Australian Standards and ISO Standards and best practice principles in your industry. This ensures that all of SafetyCulture's products incorporate the highest recognized standard of work health and safety.

Upgrading Existing SafetyCulture Documents

If you purchased a product before 20 May 2011, SafetyCulture will continue to offer loyalty discount pricing to help you upgrade. Just call one of our friendly and informed staff on 1300 306 604 and they will be happy to assist you with upgrading to meet the new laws and assist with any questions you may have regarding changes to WHS in your state/territory.

Harmonisation Upgrade Costs*:

  • FREE to ALL clients who purchased in the month prior to rollout date
  • $29.95 SWMS upgrade for clients who purchased prior to May 20, 2011
  • $25.95 SWMS upgrade for clients who purchased over 15 SWMS or more

*Upgrade pricing schedule only applies to products clients have previously purchased.

Harmonisation Work Method Statements (SWMS):

Work Method Statements under the harmonisation laws will need to meet the national format which is different from some current state requirements. All SafetyCulture clients who purchase Work Method Statements the month prior to harmonisation rolling out in their state will receive free upgrades for any Work Method Statements to comply with the National OHS Harmonisation program.

Looking for Safe Work Method Statements? - Click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the model work health and safety laws?

Safe Work Australia has developed model work health and safety laws as part of an initiative of the Council of Australian Governments. This initiative demonstrates the commitment of the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to improving work health and safety for all Australians.

Why do we need model work health and safety laws?

The Commonwealth, states and territories are responsible for making and enforcing their own work health and safety laws. Although there are many similarities between the laws there are also some differences that can cause confusion. Australian workers should be entitled to the same work health and safety standards, regardless of the jurisdiction in which they operate.

The Commonwealth and each state and territory government have agreed to harmonise their work health and safety laws, including Regulations and Codes of Practice, so that they are similar in each jurisdiction.

This regulatory inconsistency is being addressed through an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) where, for the first time, governments from each state and territory and the Commonwealth have formally committed to the harmonisation of work health and safety laws. The intention is to harmonise these laws (including the Regulations and Codes of Practice that underpin them) to deliver the same work health and safety protections to all Australians.

How will work health and safety laws be harmonised? Each jurisdiction will go through the process of enacting legislation. The intention is to have mirror laws enacted in each jurisdiction. Minor but necessary variations may be made consistent with relevant drafting protocols and to achieve consistency with other laws and processes operating within a jurisdiction.

When will the changes come into effect?

The Commonwealth and each state and territory will be required to enact laws that reflect the model work health and safety laws by the end of December 2011. All laws commenced on 1 January 2012. Model Codes of Practice will be developed and implemented at the same time as the model WHS Regulations. However, development and implementation of further model Codes of Practice will continue beyond December 2011.

How was the model WHS Act developed?

The model WHS Act is the result of a comprehensive national review into work health and safety laws across Australia, which involved substantial public consultation.

The first draft of the model WHS Act was based on the decisions of the Workplace Relations Ministers' Council (WRMC) in relation to the national review findings. Many of WRMC's decisions are published here.

The first draft of the model WHS Act was released for public comment for six weeks in September 2009. The 480 submissions received during this period informed many of the amendments to the first draft. The amended draft was endorsed by WRMC in December 2009.

Is the current version of the model WHS Act the final version?

WRMC authorised Safe Work Australia to make final technical and drafting amendments to ensure that the model WHS Act operates as intended. The final version of the model WHS Act was published by Safe Work Australia on 23 June 2011.

Model Work Health and Safety Act 23 June 2011

What transitional arrangements will be put in place?

Appropriate transitional arrangements will be put in place in each jurisdiction.

All jurisdictions have agreed to a set of principles which will ensure that transitional arrangements are consistent across Australia, although some variations are inevitable as each jurisdiction will be transitioning from a different work health and safety system.

View contact details for state and territory work health and safety authorities.

Will there be a national regulator?

No, the Commonwealth and each state and territory will continue to have its own regulator to administer the laws in their jurisdiction.

Will the model WHS Regulations and model Codes of Practice also be harmonised?

Yes, the intention is for all work health and safety laws, Regulations, Codes of Practice and guidance material to be harmonised across Australia.

Who is co-ordinating the project?

Safe Work Australia is an independent statutory body established on 1 November 2009, under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008. Its primary function is to progress the model work health and safety laws in partnership with state and territory governments, employers and workers, who are represented as Safe Work Australia Members.

How do I get copies of the documents?

The documents are available to download from the public comment page.