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Work health and safety laws

How to protect the health, safety and welfare of your employees and volunteers.

Content last updated 09/07/2024

Work health and safety laws

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Work health and safety laws

The purpose of the Work Health and Safety laws (WHS laws) are to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees, volunteers and other persons who are at, or come in to contact with, a workplace. 

Different laws exist in each state and territory.

New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania, and now Western Australia have ‘harmonised’ their WHS laws by enacting similar legislation, based on an agreed ‘model’ WHS Act. This means that in most states and territories and at the Commonwealth level, WHS laws impose similar obligations. 

In Western Australia, the new Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WA) came into force on 31 March 2022. This means only Victoria has not harmonised their legislation with the rest of the states and territories.

Victoria has not yet adopted the Model Laws and has retained its own Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation. See our guide to occupational heath and safety for Victoria.  

For Western Australia, see our guide which covers the new regime in Western Australia. 

Each jurisdiction has its own regulator to oversee and enforce work health and safety and administer workers' compensation schemes in its state or territory. 


As the impact of COVID-19 on the Australian community evolves, organisations may continue to face workplace challenges. For example, managing issues related to COVID-19 vaccinations, employee sickness and attending the workplace. See the Fair Work Ombudsman webpage 'COVID-19 and workplace laws' for more information.

National guide to work health and safety laws

Our national guide to 'Community organisations and work health and safety laws' covers:

  • when WHS Laws apply to not-for-profit organisations, and
  • key WHS duties  
Community organisations and WHS laws

More information

The content on this webpage was last updated in September 2023 and is not legal advice. See full disclaimer and copyright notice.

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