National workplace health and safety harmonisation

From 1 January 2012, new national health and safety legislation comes into effect which standardises all current state and territory level regulations, although some states have so far refused to introduce the new laws. Health and safety regulation in Australia has always been controlled by the state and territory governments meaning the laws differ within each jurisdiction.

Harmonisation was an attempt to standardise all health and safety rules and legislation across the country. This will help employers understand their legal obligations better and ensure worker’s rights are protected.

National health and safety harmonisation means national uniformity of the health and safety legislative framework (comprised of a model OHS Act, supported by model OHS legislations and model codes of practice) complemented by a nationally consistent approach to compliance and enforcement policy.

At the start of 2012, Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT and the Commonwealth began operating under the harmonised national health and safety system. The new laws commence in 2013 in Tasmania and are expected to be introduced soon in South Australia. However, the Liberal governments of Victoria and Western Australia have to date resisted the move towards uniform laws.

Our union will continue to seek further improvements to workers' rights under harmonisation.