Work health and safety laws

The Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WHS Act) and its associated Regulations (collectively referred to as the WHS Laws) commenced on 31 March 2022 and sets out the requirements for providing a safe and healthy work environment.

If an association’s activities are covered by the WHS Act it must ensure the health and safety of all of its workers, including volunteers and members. This means that the organisation must provide the same protections to its volunteers and members as it does to its paid workers.

The protection covers their physical safety and mental health.

What activities are covered by the WHS Laws?

Only work activities are covered; activities that are purely domestic, social, recreational or private in nature are not included. Whether an activity is considered work may depend on specific circumstances.

Examples of activities that are considered work include:

  • maintenance of the things needed to enable an organisation to carry out its work. For example, maintenance work on a hall where a volunteer group meets
  • activities that people are ordinarily paid to do but are carried out for the organisation by a volunteer, for instance, driving clients to appointments
  • activities that the organisation has a great degree of direction or influence over, or
  • activities carried out in accordance with formal or structured arrangements.

For more information on what is and is not ‘work’ under the WHS Act, please contact Worksafe.

Associations and their duties under the WHS Laws

An association will have duties under the WHS Act where one or more persons are employed to carry out work for the association. A person may be employed by either:

  • the organisation itself
  • the organisation’s members, whether alone or jointly with any other members.

The association will owe a duty to both the paid worker and any volunteers it (or its members) engages.

The WHS Act does not apply if the association is a group of volunteers working together for a community purpose and the association does not employ a person to carry out any work for the association.

The primary duty of an association under WHS Laws includes ensuring:

  • the provision and maintenance of a work environment without risks to health and safety
  • the provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures and safe systems of work
  • the safe use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances
  • the provision of accessible and adequate facilities for the welfare at work of workers, including volunteers, for example, toilets, first aid facilities
  • the provision of information, training and instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from their work.