OHS harmonisation – What’s it all about?

For decades it has been recognised that Australia required harmonised OHS laws in order to reduce the regulatory burden on employers and to help bolster our national economy.

The need for harmonisation has rarely been disputed and, in 2008, the Commonwealth, state and territory governments signed an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) to harmonise workplace health and safety laws by the end of 2011.

The IGA called for the establishment of a national, independent tripartite body to drive the national reform process- Safe Work Australia was established in 2009 for this purpose.

Safe Work Australia’s primary responsibility is to develop OHS laws that are consistent between all the states and territories of Australia. It is also responsible for developing a nationally relevant Work Health and Safety Act in consultation with Commonwealth, states and territories and representatives of unions and employer associations.

Along with the development of regulations, Safe Work Australia will develop model codes of practice for the following priority areas:

  • Asbestos
  • Confined spaces
  • Construction induction
  • Labelling of workplace substances
  • Major hazard facilities
  • Plant use of certain types eg, amusement structures and rollover protection
  • Pre-cast tilt-up and concrete elements in building construction
  • Preparation of material data safety sheet
  • Prevention of falls
  • Risk management
  • Scaffolding and rigging
  • The design, manufacture, import and supply of plant.

Each state and territory and the Commonwealth will be required to enact laws that reflect the model work health and safety laws by the end of 2011.

It is expected that all laws will commence on 1 January 2012.

For your information the draft model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations and model Codes of Practice is available at: www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au