Release type: Media Release


Work health and safety reforms pass the Senate


The Hon Tony Burke MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
Minister for the Arts

Negligent employers who expose workers to serious risks in the workplace will face tougher penalties under new Albanese Labor Government laws.

Employers will also be prevented from using their insurance to cover such penalties, ensuring businesses take their work health and safety duties seriously.

Federal Parliament has today passed the Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2023 – the next step in the Government’s plan to improve workplace safety.

Last year 169 workers were fatally injured at work in Australia. Eighteen workers have been killed in the first two months of this year.

Each of these deaths is a tragedy. Each of these deaths represents a family member who will never come home, a friend or co-worker lost forever. 

But workplace deaths are preventable.

These news laws expand the most serious offence under the Commonwealth’s work health and safety laws to include negligence as a fault element, lowering the bar for conviction. That means both reckless and grossly negligent employers can now face the most serious consequences and penalties.

The laws also prohibits the use of insurance to cover financial penalties incurred for WHS fines, ensuring the fines act as a proper deterrent rather than just another cost of doing business. No longer will a penalty be just be another line on a balance sheet that a negligent employer can recover from their insurer, while a family has lost a loved one in a workplace fatality.

These new laws are an important step in the Commonwealth implementing recommendations of the Boland Review of the model work health and safety laws – a report commissioned but then largely ignored by the previous Liberal and National Government.

This Bill has also been passed a week after the Government secured the support of the states and territories to consider a ban on dangerous engineered stone and to strengthen industrial manslaughter laws.

The Albanese Government is serious about delivering safer workplaces for all Australian workers.

These laws are only the beginning. There's still much more for us to do to make Australians safer at work.