The Long and Winding Road to OHS Harmonisation

Labour History, No. 104 (May 2013): 171-190

17 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2013 Last revised: 25 Nov 2013

See all articles by Eric Windholz

Eric Windholz

Monash University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2013


Australia’s harmonised occupational health and safety (OHS) regulatory regime was scheduled to commence 1 January 2012. Presently, however, only seven (out of nine) jurisdictions have enacted harmonised laws, most with differences. That the harmonisation initiative has not (yet) delivered on its promise should not have come as a surprise to those familiar with the history of OHS harmonisation in Australia – a history punctuated by moments of great hope followed by disappointing progress. This article examines this history through the lens of Australian federalism. In doing so, it illustrates the organic growth in the Commonwealth’s sphere of responsibility as matters originally defined as social issues become redefined as economic issues in that they negatively impact on business interests. It also demonstrates the tensions that arise when these economic values come into conflict with the values underpinning Australian federalism and OHS regulation itself.

Keywords: Harmonisation, Federalism, History, Occupational health and safety, OHS, economic, social, values

JEL Classification: A13, H77, I18, J28, K32

Suggested Citation

Windholz, Eric, The Long and Winding Road to OHS Harmonisation (2013). Labour History, No. 104 (May 2013): 171-190, Available at SSRN:

Eric Windholz (Contact Author)

Monash University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800

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