Work health and safety on domestic commercial vessels

People working in the maritime industry should be familiar with the work health and safety obligations applying in their state or territory.
24 June 2020
people hanging off a boom on a ship

Compliance with the National Law (for example having your commercial vessel in survey with AMSA), does not automatically mean that the operation of a DCV is compliant with WHS* laws, and vice versa. 

The regulatory framework that applies to domestic commercial vessels (DCVs) includes both Commonwealth and state / territory laws. These laws may apply to physical aspects of the vessel itself or to the activities conducted on a vessel.

Vessels are defined as a workplaces under the work / occupational health and safety acts administered by each WHS regulator (see the WHS regulators section).

For that reason the WHS laws apply to DCVs and impose certain obligations on the operation of DCVs. Those obligations are in addition to the obligations imposed by the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 (the National Law), which is administered by AMSA. 

About the work health and safety laws

A key purpose of the WHS laws is to secure a safe place of work. The laws provide a framework that requires duty holders to identify and eliminate or minimise risks so far as is reasonably practical in their workplaces.

In addition to applying to employers, employees and contractors at a workplace, health and safety laws can also apply to other people at or near a workplace, including volunteers and visitors.


Additional requirements under work health and safety laws

It is important to note that some work activities are specifically regulated by WHS regulations and codes of practice, including:

  • worker representation and consultation
  • risk and workplace management
  • hazardous work tasks:
    • noise, manual tasks, confined space entry, falls from height, scaffolding
  • high risk work licensing:
    • lifting, forklift, scaffolding, asbestos, energised electrical work, pressure vessels (boilers)
  • diving
  • demolition work
  • electrical (in some states is separate legislation)
  • plant and structures
  • construction work (including dredging)
  • hazardous chemicals, dangerous goods
  • asbestos
  • major hazard facilities
  • mines (in some states is separate legislation)
  • Incident / injury / near miss reporting (in addition to AMSAs incident reporting requirements)

WHS regulators can answer questions regarding the requirements surrounding WHS laws.

WHS regulators

SafeWork NSW – 131 050

SafeWork ACT – 13 22 81

WorkSafe Victoria – 1800 136 089

WorkSafe Tasmania - 1300 366 322

SafeWork South Australia - 1300 365 255

WorkSafe WA - 1300 307 877

NT WorkSafe – 1800 019 115

WHS Queensland – 1300 362 128

*In this document, ‘WHS’ includes occupational health and safety (OHS) and occupational safety and health (OSH).

Last Updated: 

7 June 2023