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The National Compliance and Enforcement Policy (NCEP) promotes a nationally consistent approach to compliance and enforcement of WHS laws. Some WHS regulators have adopted the NCEP in full, while others have incorporated elements of the NCEP into their own compliance and enforcement policies. 

The NCEP sets out guiding principles that underpin the approach of regulators to monitor and enforce compliance with WHS laws. These principles are:

Consistency Regulators endeavour to ensure that similar circumstances at workplaces lead to similar approaches being taken, providing greater protection and certainty in workplace and industry.
Constructiveness Regulators provide support, advice and guidance to assist compliance with work health and safety laws and build capability.
Transparency Regulators demonstrate impartiality, balance and integrity.
Accountability Regulators are willing to explain their decisions and make available avenues of complaint or appeal.
Proportionality Compliance and enforcement responses are proportionate to the seriousness of the conduct.
Responsiveness Compliance and enforcement measures are responsive to the particular circumstances of the duty holder or workplace. 
Targeted Activities are focussed on the areas of assessed highest risk or the work health.

How do regulators monitor compliance? 

Compliance monitoring is one technique regulators use to encourage high levels of compliance with WHS laws. 

In general, regulators monitor compliance through inspections and audits, which can be either planned (targeted) or responsive. They also receive incident notifications and requests for assistance with WHS issues from businesses and workers. 

The NCEP also identifies priority areas for investigations, including work-related fatalities and serious injuries (or where there is a risk of these outcomes), offences against health and safety representatives, matters relating to entry permit holders and discrimination against workers. 

In determining which complaints or reports of injuries, incidents or diseases to investigate or give priority, regulators take into account several factors including:

  • the severity and scale of potential or actual harm 
  • the seriousness of any potential breach of the law
  • the wider relevance of the event, including matters of significant community concern, and
  • the duty holder’s compliance history. 

For more information on inspections and inspector powers see What powers do inspectors have to enter workplaces? and What powers do regulators and inspectors have to gather information?.  

How do regulators enforce compliance with the law?

WHS regulators have a range of mechanisms to promote and encourage WHS compliance and to sanction a duty holder for non-compliance. These include:

  • Providing advice on compliance and seeking voluntary compliance.
  • Assisting parties to resolve certain WHS issues.
  • Directing compliance by issuing notices.
  • Sanctions, including 
    • Revoking, suspending or cancelling authorisations
    • Infringement notices
    • Accepting enforceable undertakings, and
    • Commencing prosecutions.

The NCEP promotes the proportionate use of enforcement mechanisms, as illustrated in the enforcement pyramid.

Figure 1: NCEP enforcement pyramid

Figure 1: NCEP enforcement pyramid

Regulators will not always use the lowest level of enforcement actions first. It will depend on the individual circumstances. For example, where a serious injury occurs a regulator may commence legal proceedings rather than provide information and guidance. At other times, regulators may use a combination of enforcement tools such as providing advice and issuing an improvement notice.

For more information on enforcement mechanisms see How do the regulators enforce WHS laws?

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