In 2008 the Australian Government proposed that all work health and safety laws including Regulations, Codes of Practice and guidance material be “harmonised” across Australia. Up to this point there were many differences in regulatory requirements in each state, which added significant complexity and cost for employers operating business over different state.
The aim of harmonising health and safety laws is to improve simplicity, efficiency and productivity for business operating nationally and to better facilitate employment in an increasingly mobile labour market.
Safe Work Australia is an independent commonwealth statutory body with the primary function of progressing the implementation of model work health and safety laws in partnership with state and territory governments, employers and workers. Some jurisdictions adopted the new laws on schedule on 1 January 2012 (Queensland, NSW, ACT, Northern Territory and the Commonwealth) while for the remaining states the implementation is a “work in progress”.
To assist employers to comply with the new laws, Safe Work Australia has released 11 model Codes of Practice; essentially best practice documents designed to assist employers to manage and minimise the major areas of health and safety risks to employees. In Australia, like many countries, exposure to loud noise is a significant cause of permanent hearing loss to workers and in response Safe WorkAustralia has developed the Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss Code of Practice.