Legislative framework

New work health and safety legislation

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice have replaced the old NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act and associated Regulation.

Introduction of the new laws has not significantly changed the way the University of Sydney manages work health and safety matters. Many of the requirements for employers under the new regulatory framework remain the same. The University has a well established framework for managing health and safety risks.

What the changes mean for us

  • “Work health and safety” (WHS) replaces the term “occupational health and safety”.
  • The legislation refers to work health and safety duties related to specific roles and standards of care associated with specific activities in a workplace. A person can have more than one duty and more than one person have the same duty. The new Act provides for four categories of duty holders and outlines required standard of care for each duty holder:
  1. “Person conducting a business or undertaking” replaces “employer” as having the primary duty of care for ensuring the health and safety of workers and others. There are no major changes in the legal obligations of the University.
  2. “Officers” are defined as people who make decisions, or participate in decision-making, that affects the whole, or a substantial part, of the University. In our context, officers include the Senate Fellows, the Vice-Chancellor and the Deputy Vice-Chancellors. Officers and senior managers (deans, directors of administrative units, heads of schools/departments) must do what they can to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable (see box). View the University’s duty of care checklists.
  3. “Worker” replaces the term “employee”. There is no change in the duties of workers. Workers are defined more broadly than employee and include labour hire staff, volunteers, apprentices, work experience, contractors and sub-contractors. In the University’s context workers also include affiliates, as defined in the Affiliates Policy, and in some instances students. Workers are required to take reasonable care that their acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of themselves or others, comply with any reasonable instructions given to ensure health and safety, and cooperate with WHS policies and procedures.
  4. “Other persons at the workplace” - including students and visitors - are required to take reasonable care that their acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of themselves or others, and to comply with any reasonable instructions given to ensure health and safety.
  • Individuals can now be prosecuted as well as employers. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. A tiered regime of penalties has been introduced, with a maximum penalty, for the most serious breaches, of $3 million for a corporation and $600,000 and/or five years’ imprisonment for individuals.
  • Consultation requirements have expanded as a result of the broader definition of workers. The University’s WHS consultation arrangements have been revised accordingly, and Zone OHS Committees have been replaced with health and safety representatives (HSRs).

Associated legislation

Some legal requirements regarding health and safety at work are contained in associated legislation (including workers' compensation and injury management legislation):

See the government's legislation database for a more comprehensive list of NSW acts and regulations.