Penalties under the WHS laws

The model WHS Act provides for three categories of criminal offences for breach of work health and safety duties. 

The maximum penalties are different depending on the category of the offence and whether the offender is an individual (e.g. a worker, or a PCBU), an officer or a body corporate.

Category 1 – a duty holder, without reasonable excuse, engages in conduct with gross negligence or are reckless as to the risk to an individual of death or serious injury or illness. 

Category 2 – a duty holder fails to comply with a health and safety duty that exposes a person to risk of death or serious injury or illness. 

Category 3 – a duty holder fails to comply with a health and safety duty

There are also number of offences under the model WHS Act that relate to specific requirements and carry their own individual penalties. 

The maximum monetary penalties comparison table sets out a selection of offences in the model WHS Act that attract a monetary penalty for the purpose of comparing maximum monetary penalties across each of the jurisdictions that have implemented the model WHS laws. 

The jurisdictions that have adopted the model WHS laws are the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Commonwealth and Western Australia. 

The table is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all offences in the model WHS Act. 

An additional table summarises a selection of penalties in Victoria’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004).

For further information on penalties in your jurisdiction, refer to the specific WHS Act of your jurisdiction, or contact the relevant WHS regulator.

The table is current as at 1 December 2022.


  • Jurisdictional note and model penalties for the office of industrial manslaughter.
  • An officer can commit a Category 1 offence under s 31.
  • Act and Regs increase level of penalties and provide for the indexation of penalties in line with national CPI.

The Model Work Health and Safety Legislation Amendment (Offences and Penalties) 2023 can be viewed here.