Government response

Work, health and safety legislation

Work, health and safety legislation (WHS) in Australia is developed at the state and territory level. Under this legislation, employers are required to provide a safe place to work for their employers and can be prosecuted if they fail to do so. A key focus of WHS legislation is to prevent workplace violence by identifying risks and implementing prevention strategies to limit the risks.

It is within the WHS framework that many workplaces develop and implement workplace safety and violence prevention policies and procedures.

In July 2008, all states and territories committed to harmonising WHS laws by adopting model WHS legislation, regulations and codes of practice.

Under the new model legislation, an employer has a duty to ensure the health and safety of workers as far as reasonably practicable. Specifically, the employer must take steps to:

  • acquire and maintain up to date knowledge on WHS matters
  • obtain an understanding of the risks and hazards associated with a workplace
  • ensure the workplace has resources and processes in place to enable health and safety risks to be eliminated or minimised
  • ensure the workplace has processes for receiving information about risks, hazards and incidents, and responding in a timely manner
  • ensure the workplace has processes to comply with duties and obligations under the legislation.

The legislation also places obligations on employees. Employere must take reasonable care for their own health and safety at work, and take reasonable care to ensure their actions do not adversely affect the health and safety of others. Workers must also:

  • comply with any reasonable instructions given to ensure compliance with WHS obligations
  • cooperate with any reasonable policy and procedure related to health and safety of which they have been notified.

The Commonwealth, NSW, ACT, Queensland and the Northern Territory have implemented the harmonised laws. The process of harmonising WHS laws in other states is ongoing.

Click here for an update on harmonisation of WHS laws in Australian states and territories

Click on the links below for more information of WHS laws in different states and territories:

Criminal law

In addition to WHS legislation and authorities, the criminal justice system has a role to play in responding to incidents of workplace violence. Criminal legislation in Australia is largely developed at the state and territory level and consequently may vary between jurisdictions. Some criminal activities, however, fall within the Commonwealth Government’s remit. Click on the links below for the criminal legislation in each Australian state and territory:

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