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Safety legislation

Temporary Update: The coronavirus (COVD-19) pandemic has created significant challenges to all parties with duties and obligations under existing work, health and safety (WHS) laws.

For practical guidance on identifying, and managing COVID-19 related risks in the South Australian workplace, please see the Safe Work SA website here [link will open in a new window]

See also: The Fair Work Ombudsman’s regularly updated resource on ‘Health and Safety in the Workplace During Coronavirus’ here [link will open in a new window]

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The Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) provides for the safety, health and welfare of persons employed or engaged in industry in South Australia.

The Act together with the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) set up health and safety duties to provide protections from hazards and risks in the workplace. The duties fall not only on the persons running a business and their officers, but also on individual workers [Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) ss 27-29].

It is a criminal offence to breach work health and safety duties, with maximum penalties ranging from $500 000 to $3 million dollars for corporations and from $50 000 to $600 000 for individuals, depending on the gravity of the offending [Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) ss 30-34].

The Work Health and Safety Act is enforced by the regulator, SafeWork SA [Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) Part 8]. SafeWork SA has powers to enter workplaces, obtain search warrants, and various powers related to the seizure of documents and other evidence [ss 160-181]. Safework SA Inspectors can issue infringement, improvement, non-disturbance and prohibition orders [ss 191 – 210]. SafeWork SA can also accept enforceable undertakings, for example that a breach of workplace safety will be rectified [ss 216-222]. Decisions of inspectors can be reviewed [see Part 12].

Codes of Practice provide guidance as to what measures should be taken by employers to prevent work place injury.

The Act also establishes a system of worker representation through Health and Safety Representatives and Committees [Part 5].

Under the Act union officials can gain a right of entry to a workplace when there is a suspected breach of work health and safety laws [see generally Part 7 Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA)]. This is to consult with workers and check records. There are however, penalties for misuse of this right of entry.

For further information, copies of the Codes of Practice, and fact sheets see SafeWork SA’s website.

For information about workplace health and safety and worker's compensation legislation across Australia visit SafeWork Australia’s website.


Workplace bullying (repeated unreasonable behaviour towards a worker which creates a risk to the worker's health and safety) is covered by the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA). Safework SA can investigate complaints of bullying.

Additionally the Fair Work Commission has power to deal with work place bullying, see the website for more information on this process:

See also: Workplace bullying

Safety legislation  :  Last Revised: Tue May 5th 2020
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.