Changes to OH&S Laws

The Work Health & Safety Act (NSW) 2011

On the 1st of January this year, the Work Health & Safety Act (NSW) 2011 and Regulations came into effect. This marks a significant development in the path towards OH&S harmonisation, the ultimate goal being consistent work place health and safety laws across all Australian jurisdictions. These new laws place new obligations on employers and employees with respect to OH&S. It is important that you are aware of these developments, and that owners and controllers of workplaces undertake reviews of their current OH&S policies to ensure compliance.

What has changed?

The key changes implemented by the new laws include:

  • Extension of Duty of Care to ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU): the duty of care to ensure health and safety (as far as reasonably practicable) is extended to PCBU’s, not just employers. This covers self employed persons, partnerships and unincorporated associations.
  • Extension of Duty of Care to all ‘workers’ not just ‘employees’: This covers a variety of workplace arrangements, so that a person does not have to be an employee to be owed a duty of care with respect to workplace health and safety. Volunteers and Subcontractors are also covered by the new laws.
  • Due diligence requirements: a positive obligation is introduced to ‘officers’ of organisations to exercise due diligence to ensure compliance. This includes, but is not limited to, directors, company secretaries, partners and trustees.
  • Broader obligation to consult with ‘workers’: this means that not only employees have a right to participate in consultations relating to OH&S matters.
  • Higher penalties for non-compliance: including potential imprisonment as well as greater sentencing options.
  • Changes in reporting obligations: PCBU’s must ensure that the regulator is immediately notified of a ‘notifiable incident’ such as serious injury, illness, death or dangerous event.

What steps should your workplace take to ensure continued compliance?

Workplaces should undertake the following actions to ensure compliance:

Identify which ‘officers’ due diligence duties attach to.
Review current OH&S policies and procedures.
Implement OH&S consultation procedures.
Training for current and new staff in relation to new OH&S compliance and reporting obligations.

Taking the above steps will get your workplace off to a good start in ensuring OH&S compliance under the revised laws. Of course, if you need any assistance, please contact our office.

Anthea Eills


Baker A & Fletcher J ‘Australia: OHS harmonisation: it has gone ‘live’’ 21 January 2012 available on

Safe Work Australia, Explanatory Memorandum- Model Work Health & Safety Bill

Catanzariti J, ‘Industrial Relations: Changes in new harmonised OH&S laws’ Law Society Journal October 2011, p 52