Responsive and effective regulatory framework

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The regulatory framework improves effectiveness by appropriately responding and adapting to changing circumstances.

A responsive and effective regulatory framework forms part of the work health and safety infrastructure which underpins the 2022 Outcomes of the Australian Strategy.

What is a responsive and effective regulatory framework?

The regulatory framework consists of all the laws and policies that govern work health and safety plus all the activities that support compliance with those laws.

The legal instruments are:

  • legislation (work health and safety or occupational health and safety acts)
  • regulations and
  • codes of practice which is not mandatory but courts may regard an approved code of practice as evidence.

Regulators’ activities can include:

  • developing policies which set out how they interpret, administer and enforce the laws fairly and efficiently
  • helping businesses to comply with their duties to protect their workers’ health and safety – by advice and guidance
  • enforcement – including prosecuting offenders.

To be responsive and effective, the regulatory framework must be able to take account of and adapt to the particular circumstances, available evidence, community expectations and the environment in which organisations operate.

How does this lead to better work health and safety?

A responsive and effective regulatory framework means laws, policies and practice are reviewed, monitored and updated regularly to reflect the changing evidence and community expectations.

Governments, businesses, unions, employer associations and the community need to work together to improve work health and safety outcomes. At the highest level these relationships involve formal tripartite consultation.

Strategic outcomes

National activities will support the following outcomes:

  • Legislation, policies and regulatory practice are reviewed and monitored to ensure they are responsive and effective.
  • Relationships between regulators and all who have a stake in work health and safety are effective, constructive, transparent and accountable.

Examples of national activities

To respond to changing community expectations, improve national consistency and reduce regulatory burden significant effort has and is being invested in modernizing the regulatory framework in Australia.

Model work health and safety laws

The model work health and safety laws are the basis for harmonised laws across Australia and have been adopted in all jurisdictions apart from Victoria and WA. They consist of a principal Act setting out the general duties with more detailed regulations prescribing minimum standards to achieve health and safety outcomes for specific matters..

View more on the model work health and safety laws including jurisdictional progress on implementation
View the model WHS Act
View the model WHS Regulations

Model Codes of Practice and guidance material

Safe Work Australia and the jurisdictional regulators produce simple practical guidance material to explain how employers and workers can meet their obligations. This includes codes of practice, guidance, fact sheets, checklists, videos and other resources on various hazards and risks.

View the A-Z model Codes of Practice
View guidance material

National Compliance and Enforcement Policy

The National Compliance and Enforcement Policy sets out the principles which underpin the approach work health and safety regulators take to monitoring and enforcing compliance with work health and safety laws.

This policy was collaboratively developed by the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities and then endorsed by Safe Work Australia Members and the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council.

View the National Compliance and Enforcement Policy

Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities

All regulators work together through the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) to coordinate national prevention campaigns. These campaigns are aimed at making workplaces healthier and safer.

An example of a recent HWSA campaign is Making farming safer.

HWSA has also developed consistent administrative procedures for dealing with matters such as:

  • applications for licences, and
  • work health and safety undertakings.

Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 Virtual Seminar Series

Responsive and effective regulatory framework is a key theme of the Virtual Seminar Series see:

  • Walking the talk: leadership in practice
  • Work health and safety: small business and responsive regulation
  • The Skeleton Project: Greg Pullen – Northern Health
  • The Skeleton Project: Neil Coulson – Jayco Corporation
  • Linking safety leadership and safety culture in Queensland (two items)
  • Rethinking responsive regulation
  • Alive and well: a new approach to promoting farm safety
  • The seven steps for small business
  • Safety on outback stations – a profile of the Northern Territory’s cattle industry
  • Linking safety leadership and culture in Queensland (2)
  • Safe Work Australia: looking ahead

Responsive and effective regulatory framework examples and case studies

Key resources and links


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