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Contributed by Anne Aziz-Parker, with Catherine Matthews and Richard Muir and current to March 2022.

Inspectors can issue notices to enforce immediate compliance with obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. They can also impose penalties or recommend prosecutions for breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Work health and safety inspectors have enforcement powers including:
  • Improvement notice - A written notice cautioning about an unsafe practice, particular hazard or potential risk to health and safety. The notice states the part of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 or Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 covering the offence. The notice requires corrective action to be taken within the timeframe specified.
  • Prohibition notice - A written direction that prohibits (stops) any activity where the inspector thinks someone may be at risk of imminent (immediate) and serious harm. The notice requires the person in charge of the activity to cease the activity. However, in some circumstances the inspector may allow the activity to continue in accordance with the directions specified in the notice.
  • Infringement notice - A notice issued to a person where there are reasonable grounds to believe that person has committed an 'infringement notice offence' under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
  • Prosecution action – Access Canberra can recommend to the Director of Public Prosecutions that prosecution action be taken under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 against any person or organisation, where there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed.
A person, who has been issued a notice, or that person's employer, can ask for a review of the notice. The request to review must be submitted in writing to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Anyone not satisfied with the result of the review of a notice may elect to have the matter heard before the Industrial Relations Commission.

The person in control of a business or undertaking must display improvement or prohibition notices in a prominent place at or near any workplace affected by the notice until the requirements of the notice have been met.

A person must not, without reasonable excuse, obstruct or hinder an inspector in the exercise of their powers under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

A person must not give an inspector information that is, to the person’s knowledge, false or misleading or give the inspector any documents containing false or misleading information.

Enforceable Undertakings

WorkSafe ACT may accept a work health and safety undertaking , also known as an enforceable undertaking, as an alternative to prosecuting a contravention or an alleged contravention of the ACT's Work Health and Safety Act 2011, except for a category one offence.

An enforceable undertaking is a legally binding agreement between WorkSafe ACT and the person who proposed the undertaking. If WorkSafe ACT accepts the work health and safety undertaking the person is obliged to carry out the specific activities outlined in the undertaking. The activities are intended to improve not only health and safety at the workplace, but also deliver health and safety initiatives to the relevant industry and the broader community. The activities may be substantial.

When a proposed enforceable undertaking is accepted, any legal proceedings connected to the alleged contravention are discontinued. Where legal proceedings have not been instituted, acceptance of the undertaking will mean that no proceedings will be commenced, subject to the undertaking not being contravened.

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