In the early 1900s, Australia’s workplace health and safety laws were nonexistent. This law established a framework for managing disputes in the workplace and protecting workers from unsafe conditions.
In the past century, Australia has taken great strides in improving its workplace health and safety laws.
In response to these deaths, the government passed legislation that established minimum requirements for workplace safety and health. This included the establishment of a national board for occupational health and safety, which was responsible for enforcing these laws.
In an effort to improve worker safety, the government also created several organizations dedicated specifically to worker safety: the Australian Safety Council (ASC), which provides training programs and advice; the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC), which regulates workplaces; and the Health Insurance Commission (HIC).
Today, Australia has a multitude of laws that govern the safety of employees in the workplace.
The first Australian government agency dedicated to worker safety was established in Australia in 1874. The first act of parliament dealing with workplace health and safety was passed in 1905. This act set up a board of inquiry into workplace fatalities caused by accidents and explosions. It also established rules for employers’ liability for injuries caused by accidents at work or during transport from work.
In 1921, an act was passed that made it illegal to engage children under 14 years old in dangerous work or occupations that might endanger their lives. The maximum penalty for these crimes was five years’ imprisonment with hard labor. In 1937, another law was passed that made it illegal for companies to employ women over 40 years old on dangerous jobs like mining or operating machinery without proper protective equipment (like steel helmets).
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many Australian states had separate acts for workplace health and safety protection. Many of these acts were passed in response to several major disasters that occurred during this time period. For example, there was a fire at a mine in Western Australia in 1906 that killed 33 miners. The government responded by passing the Mines Act 1907 (WA). This act was designed to improve mining safety by requiring all mining companies to have an approved plan for dealing with emergencies at their mines. This plan would then be audited regularly by inspectors from the state’s Department of Mines.
Workplace health and safety regulations were further strengthened after World War II when governments began implementing programs such as wage boards that enforced minimum wage rules and helped provide financial support for injured workers who could not return to work immediately after an accident occurred at work; workers’ compensation payments which provided
The workplace of today is vastly different than what it was just a few decades ago. So it’s no surprise that the number of injuries has dropped over time. Factors that have contributed to this decline include:
- awareness campaigns;
- improved safety equipment and technology; and
- changes in social norms regarding working conditions.
The infographic below shows how Australia’s workplace health and safety has changed over time, based on the data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.