A Short Introduction to Safe Work Australia

Learn about Safe Work Australia, its importance, and what the organization does for workplace safety.

What is Safe Work Australia?

Safe Work Australia is a government agency dedicated to developing policies for improving worker conditions, worker compensation, and general workplace work, health, and safety (WHS). As a national policy body, they do not implement or administer their policies and instead trust their member states and jurisdictions.


In 2008, Safe Work Australia was established under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 and began operations as an independent statutory government agency in 2009. Prior to 2009, Safe Work Australia was part of the Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations, and before that, it was known as the Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) and National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC). 

Today, Safe Work Australia is composed of 15 members nominated by their respective Ministers or organizations. These members will sit for three years. These are:

  • an independent Chair member;
  • nine members representing the Commonwealth, each state, and territory; 
  • two members representing workers; 
  • two members representing employers; and 
  • the Chief Executive Officer of Safe Work Australia.

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Role and Function of Safe Work Australia

people complying with safe work australia rules

The four main roles of Safe Work Australia are to:

  • Develop policies for national WHS implementation and legislation 
  • Create regulations to reduce or prevent worker injuries, illnesses, and fatalities
  • Evaluate and improve workers’ compensation policies, rights, and strategies 
  • Conduct research on the effectiveness of existing and possible WHS initiatives
  • Collect, analyze, and report data on workers such as Key Work Health and Safety Statistics Australia

Safe Work Australia believes that the foundation of a great workplace and work environment starts with their WHS practices and that all workers have a right to a healthy and safe environment, regardless of the nature of their work. To achieve its goals, Safe Work Australia thus aims to create healthier, safer, more productive, and more welcoming workplaces by improving Australian WHS arrangements. 

In addition to creating, studying, and revising worker laws, Safe Work Australia also has a role in educating the masses about workplace safety. Programs such as safe@work encourage new professionals to learn about workplace safety and general WHS standards.

Safe Work Australia is also in charge of developing and evaluating model WHS laws for the country. These model laws or acts are sets of rules and regulations created for nationwide use but are also open to different interpretations and implementations across different states or legislatures. However, these model laws are not implemented in the jurisdiction of Victoria.

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Codes of Practice

As Safe Work Australia developed the standards of a healthy and safe workplace, they have also created guides to achieving them. These guides are called their “Codes of Practice” and are one of the model laws. They are applicable nationwide but shall be implemented and disseminated by each state and jurisdiction on their own. 

Some issues, hazards, and risks the Codes of Practice cover include but are not limited to:

FAQs about Safe Work Australia

Safe Work Australia and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) function similarly as they both serve to help employees have a healthy and safe workplace and work experience. However, Safe Work Australia is for Australia and its territories only, while OSHA is the US equivalent.

The members of Safe Work Australia are:

  • The Commonwealth
  • New South Wales (NSW)
  • Victoria
  • Queensland
  • Western Australia
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Northern Territory
  • Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

The Model WHS Act is the basis of all WHS-related Acts across Australian jurisdictions. On the other hand, the Model WHS Regulations are the detailed requirements needed to support the Model WHS Act. 

The model laws are the model WHS Act, model WHS Regulations, and model Codes of Practice.

Roselin Manawis
Article by

Roselin Manawis

SafetyCulture Content Specialist
Roselin Manawis is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. She has experience in news writing and content marketing across different fields of discipline. Her background in Communication Arts enables her to leverage multimedia and improve the quality of her work. She also contributed as a research assistant for an international study and as a co-author for two books in 2020. With her informative articles, she aims to ignite digital transformation in workplaces around the world.