Labour and employment: workplace health and safety (WHS) in Australia


Ashurst’s work health and safety practice regularly advises on the management of major safety incidents including fatalities, serious accidents and injuries including representing clients in workplace health and safety prosecutions and coronial inquests, handling officers’ personal liability issues and advising boards on their duties. The group counts public and private sector companies as clients and also acts for state and federal government agencies. Lea Constantine heads up the department, which also counts industrial relations specialist Ian Humphreys, Brisbane-based James Hall, who has notable expertise in the coal industry and newly promoted Perth-based partner Julia Sutherland.

Practice head(s):

Lea Constantine


This team put the effort into understanding the business and its drivers and can tailor advice accordingly – which means it is practical and efficient.

Ashurst’s strength is its responsiveness and the commerciality of its advice.

The team at Ashurst LLP understand our business and are responsive, comprehensive and practical in their advice.

James Hall is great to deal with and is very commercial. Ian Humphrey is responsive and goes above and beyond to protect our company’s interests.

Lea Constantine and Julia Sutherland have excellent industry knowledge and experience and provide clear, concise and relevant advice tailored to the business.

Key clients

Alcoa of Australia Limited

BOC Limited


Downer Infrastructure

Newcrest Mining Limited


Work highlights

  • Acting for BOC in third-party inquiries, including a colonial inquest and a work health and safety prosecution, into the death of a newborn baby and injuries sustained by another baby at Bankstown Lidcombe Hospital following the delivery of incorrect gases to an operating theatre.
  • Acting for Alcoa of Australia in an investigation into a fatality at the Kwinana refinery in Western Australia, in which a contractor’s employee fell into a process vessel.
  • Represented South32 Worsley Alumina in an investigation into an incident at Worsley Alumina Refinery in which an electrician was fatally injured while repairing a malfunctioning lift.
  • Assisted Downer Infrastructure with the development and implementation of OHS frameworks and the management of OHS risks.
  • Advising Newcrest Mining on its response to a fatality at its Ridgeway underground mine including handling an internal investigation and the management of external investigation, and representing the client in the resulting prosecution.

Clyde & Co LLP

At Clyde & Co LLP, the highly regarded Michael Tooma jointly leads the practice with Alena Titterton, which handles a range of contentious and non-contentious matters including major incident investigations, large-scale audits, disputes, governance advice and training mandates. Leveraging the firm’s global network, the group is also increasingly handling cross-border safety matters. Titterton is also recommended for workplace health and safety legislation compliance advice and regularly helps develop integrated environment, health, safety and security management systems; she recently advised the Department of Defence on the Royal Australian Navy’s safety management system.

Practice head(s):

Michael Tooma; Alena Titterton

Key clients

Department of Defence (Royal Australian Navy)

Chubb Insurance Company of Australia Ltd

Department of Agriculture & Natural Resources

Swiftscaff Pty Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advising the Royal Australian Navy on its safety risk management training program and the implementation of its safety management system.
  • Acting for a retired former manager of waste services at the City of Armadale, who was manager at the time an Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 offence was committed relating to a serious injury at the City’s landfill facility.
  • Representing Swiftscaff in a prosecution following an incident in which a painter fell from scaffolding and sustained a serious back injury.

Herbert Smith Freehills

Steve Bell heads up the practice at Herbert Smith Freehills, which advises Australian organisations and global companies on all issues relating to incident and workplace crisis management. The group handles matters across a range of industries including the infrastructure, construction, transport, mining and public sectors; clients include Ausgrid, Australia Pacific Airports, Transurban Group and the Victorian Government. Other noteworthy practitioners include Aaron Anderson, who joined the firm’s Brisbane office from Norton Rose Fulbright in 2019; Anna Creegan, who leads the Western Australian safety team from the Perth office and focuses on the energy and resources sectors; senior associate Nerida Jessup, who handles legal compliance, incident response and safety-related litigation work; and senior associate Danika Casey, who joined from McCullough Robertson in late 2018.

Practice head(s):

Steve Bell


The team’s major strength is its capacity to handle large matters that require a significant amount of resources at short notice.

The team works with us to understand the needs of our business, and aligns specialist(s) as appropriate to ensure we are receiving the best advice.

Herbert Smith Freehills is a truly market leading practice in this area, with deep subject matter expertise and significant industry connections.

Partner Steve Bell is one of the best in the field. In providing advice he has a unique ability to provide concise, clear, and understandable legal advice, making even the most complex of legal concepts accessible.

Senior associate Brad Popple has an outstanding knowledge of industrial law beyond most of his peers across the industry.

The group stands out for its long term commitment and loyalty. It is always available to assist or assign quality resources, which is especially important for those urgent matters.

Steve Bell and Nerida Jessup are to be singled out; legal excellence is a given amongst top tier firms, however what sets Steve and Nerida apart is their understanding of business realities.

Key clients


Australia Pacific Airports

Australia Post


Bradken Resources

Eclipx Group

Ford Motor Corporation

nbn Co


Transurban Group

Victorian Government

Work highlights

  • Assisted Qanstruct with its response, including developing a regulatory engagement strategy and handling prosecution issues, to a serious workplace incident in which a contractor’s employee suffered serious injuries.
  • Defended Wilmar Sugar against a charge under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) for an alleged failure to comply following an incident at its mill in Proserpine, which resulted in the death of a worker.
  • Handling compliance audits for Brisbane Airport Corporation’s work health and safety management system.
  • Advising a state government department on a number of improvement notices, prohibition notices and fines issued by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
  • Represented Maryrorough Solar in proceedings against the State of Queensland to challenge the validity of section 73A of the Electricity Safety Regulations 2013 (Qld), which requires certain work performed on solar power modules to be carried out by licensed electricians.

Clayton Utz

Clayton Utz’s work health and safety practice assists domestic and multinational corporate clients in high-risk industries with compliance obligations, serious accident and fatality incidents, project-related advice and contractor management work. Shae McCartney leads the national practice from the Brisbane office and is a key name for contractor management mandates; she has also been actively involved in developing a safety and environment incident response app. The practice also counts Hedy Cray, who has experience in Queensland workplace health and safety laws and emergency and disaster response work, and workplace relations specialist Stuart Pill as key practitioners.

Practice head(s):

Shae McCartney

Other key lawyers:

Hedy Cray; Stuart Pill


The team has great specialist capabilities and the work is of the utmost quality.

The group is always available and has a depth of knowledge and experience that is unrivalled.

Clayton Utz has prepared project plans and provides excellent advice in conference and in writing.

Shae McCartney is excellent in meetings at walking clients through risks associated with their activities and proposing ways that those risks can be reduced.

Hilary Searing is personable and thorough and works hard to ensure that the client’s needs are met.

Key clients

Sun Metals Corporation (SMC)

Townsville Logistics and Townsville Marine Logistics

Department of Transport and Main Roads

Optus Singtel

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Cross River Rail Delivery Authority

Queensland Police Citizen Youth Welfare Association

Stockland Development

Stadiums Queensland

ACT Government

Brisbane City Council


Work highlights

  • Advising the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority of the Victorian Government on occupational health and safety strategy issues, compliance matters and incident response work relating to significant projects.
  • Handling a range of workplace health and safety issues for Sun Metals, Townsville Logistics and Townsville Marine Logistics including acting in an emergency response following a road fatality and assisting with the expansion of a refinery including safety advice.


Maddocks is a key name in the market for public sector clients, with the team’s roster including the Commonwealth, state and local governments and departments, NSW Police Force and Victoria State Emergency Service. The group is defending the Department of the Environment and Energy in a Work Health and Safety Act prosecution. Bruce Heddle and Catherine Dunlop jointly head up the department from Sydney and Melbourne respectively; Heddle also regularly handles industrial relations work and Dunlop ‘provides measured and practical direction to matters’. Ross Jackson is also a key name to note.

Practice head(s):

Bruce Heddle; Catherine Dunlop

Other key lawyers:

Ross Jackson


Maddocks fields a practical, responsive and genuinely specialised practice, which is easy to work with and provides good common sense advice.

Catherine Dunlop has fantastic experience in WHS law and provides measured and practical direction in matters. She has excellent instincts, and is a pleasure to work with.

Key clients

Commonwealth Government

State Government

Local Government

Victoria Police

NSW Police Force

Metropolitan Fire Brigade

Victoria State Emergency Service

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Deutsche Bank

Macquarie Bank



Ernst & Young

IFM Investors

Shadforth Financial

Domino’s Pizza Enterprises

Simplot Australia

Rail Control Systems Australia


Gordon Institute of TAFE

Western Sydney University

Swinburne University of Technology

Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE

University of Wollongong

Macquarie University

Victoria University

Southern Cross University

University of New South Wales

Deakin College

The Bays Healthcare Group

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network

St Luke’s Care

Nexus Day Hospitals

St Vincent’s Australia

The Ministry of Health

Western NSW Local Health District

Sydney Local Health District

South Eastern Sydney Local Health District

Work highlights

  • Defending the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy in a prosecution under the Work Health and Safety Act relating to the death of a contracted helicopter pilot in the Australian Antarctic Territories.
  • Acting for Rail Control Systems Australia in a dispute with the Electrical Trades Union relating to the upgrading of Queensland’s rail network and alleged safety concerns related to the project.

Minter Ellison

Samantha Betzien leads the national safety team at Minter Ellison, which has experience across workplace health and safety issues spanning front-end advisory work, incident response matters, regulator investigations and the resulting legal proceedings, training programs and management systems. The group has notable expertise in the energy and resources, construction, education, government and transport sectors, with clients including the Catholic Education Office, Lendlease and Suncorp. Craig Boyle, Harriet Eager and Deanna McMaster are also noteworthy practitioners in the department.

Practice head(s):

Samantha Betzien


The depth of knowledge and experience is unrivalled in the firm’s Brisbane office.

Samantha Betzien provides practical advice with respect to complex issues. She is approachable and easy to work with, and is supported by a very experienced team of lawyers, who understand the energy industry.

Key clients

Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions


Catholic Education Office




Energy Queensland Limited

Energy Developments

Ergon Energy


Goodyear and Dunlop Tyres





Macquarie Group

Mercy Healthcare

Middlemount Coal






Work highlights

  • Advised a client in the amusement industry on improvement notices, which had been issued to its directors by the Queensland safety regulator relating to alleged failures to comply with due diligence obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld).
  • Represented Multiplex Constructions in successfully seeking a stay of a prohibition notice issued under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) relating to the Jewel Project, a beachfront mixed-use development.
  • Acting for Mount Isa Mines and its site senior executive in a prosecution under the Mining Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 (Qld) relating to an incident at its copper smelter.
  • Assisting Insurance Australia Group with the review, development and implementation of its contractor management system following the fatality of a contractor’s worker in 2017.
  • Acted for an Australian retailer in proceedings brought under a provision of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, which allows an employee to bring a civil claim alleging they have been discriminated against for raising an occupational health and safety issue.

Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s dedicated safety team acts for Australian and international employers on risk analysis and risk control implementation strategies, training, incident responses and post-incident support. Paul Cutrone is increasingly instructed on cross-border mandates and leads the firm’s workplace health and safety practice for the Asia-Pacific region; at a domestic level, he recently negotiated a WHS undertaking for Bloomfield Collieries relating to a contractor fatality at one of its sites in lieu of a prosecution. Senior associates Sarah Goodhew and Sam Witton are also singled out. Jane Hall left to establish her own boutique safety firm, Loupe Legal.

Practice head(s):

Paul Cutrone

Other key lawyers:

Sarah Goodhew; Sam Witton


Seyfarth Shaw has practical and contemporary knowledge of workplace safety and provides well-considered advice and trusted support.

Paul Cutrone always delivers highly responsive, practical and contemporary knowledge of workplace safety. He maintains strong links to industry and regulators and can advise on the regulatory landscape. He provides sound advice on proactive compliance and appropriate responses to regulatory matters.

Key clients

Bloomfield Collieries Pty Ltd

Work highlights

  • Acting for Bloomfield Collieries in a WHS undertaking arising from a contractor fatality at its site.

Colin Biggers & Paisley

Colin Biggers & Paisley is key name to note in the resources sector, regularly advising mining companies on their responses to fatal and serious incidents at mine sites across Australia. The team also has experience in investigations, safety management issues and compliance work, and assists clients in the transport, construction, retail and education sectors. Greg McCann leads the national department, which also fields Sydney team head Kristen Lopes, Melbourne-based litigator Cathryn Prowse and Megan Kavanagh in Brisbane. The group also recently expanded its partner group, with Megan Bowe joining the Sydney office from FCB Workplace Law and Brisbane-based Sara McRostie joining from Crown Law.

Practice head(s):

Greg McCann

Key clients

RCR Tomlinson Limited

Professional Divers Group Pty Ltd

Work highlights

  • Acted for RCR Tomlinson in several Work Health and Safety investigations conducted by the Queensland Safety Regulator into safety allegations relating to its construction of solar farms in Queensland.
  • Defended Professional Divers Group in a Work Health and Safety prosecution brought by Safework NSW involving unsafe practices relating to the death of a trainee commercial diver.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Corrs Chambers Westgarth focuses its workplace health and safety efforts on the energy, natural resources, mining and minerals sectors; it also counts BP, Downer EDI and Serco as key clients. The group is regularly instructed by major corporates on health and safety compliance issues and investigations; Sydney-based Jack de Flamingh recently advised Ferrovial Agroman on issues arising from the Toowoomba Second Crossing project. Melbourne-based John Tuck heads up the department, which also includes Nicholas Ellery in the Perth office.

Practice head(s):

John Tuck

Other key lawyers:

Jack de Flamingh; Nicholas Ellery

Key clients


Downer EDI

Ferrovial Agroman (Australia) Pty Ltd



Victorian Government

Work highlights

  • Advised Ferrovial Agroman on the health and safety aspects of the Toowoomba Second Crossing project.
  • Assisted a Serco construction consortium with various safety issues including safety obligations and improvements to its safety systems.

HWL Ebsworth

Mark Howard leads the practice at HWL Ebsworth, which is singled out in the market for its work defending employment practices liability claims, where it acts for a range of insurer clients including Chubb Insurance Australia and AIG. The group also counts the Australian Government as a key client, and acts for companies in the financial services, construction, manufacturing, mining, retail and transport sectors. Other key practitioners include Colin Almond, who regularly acts for clients in prosecutions brought by regulators; litigator Sian Gilbert and Sarah Harrison, who focuses on the energy and transport sectors.

Practice head(s):

Mark Howard

Key clients

Chubb Insurance Australia Limited


Westpac Banking Group

Zurich Financial Services Australia Ltd

Cathay Pacific Airways Limited

BHP Billiton

Qube Ports

Singapore Airlines


Peet Limited


Carlton & United Breweries

Boral Limited


Hays Recruitment

Work highlights

  • Defended Flinders University of South Australia against alleged breaches of the general protection provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
  • Defended PremiAir Services and its director against a prosecution brought by Safework NSW relating to alleged breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).
  • Representing Hungry Jack’s in a prosecution brought by the Victorian WorkCover Authority relating to a fatality at one of its retail outlets.

King & Wood Mallesons

King & Wood Mallesons stands out in the market for its expertise handling major safety incidents and assisting management and boards with the development of safety governance systems; it recently advised AMP on the redesign of its safety governance system including designing reporting structures and handling training sessions. The practice also advises on due diligence processes and acts in regulatory actions including regulatory notices, investigations and prosecutions. Murray Kellock and Philip Willox jointly lead the practice from Melbourne and Perth respectively; Andrew Gray and Jamie Wells also notably contribute to the group.

Practice head(s):

Philip Willox; Murray Kellock

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Gray; Jamie Wells

Key clients

Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet (NDIS scheme)

The Griffin Coal Company

Rio Tinto




National Australia Bank

The Star Entertainment Group




Queensland Government


Morgan Stanley


Bankwest (CBA)


JP Morgan


Goldman Sachs



Work highlights

  • Advising AMP on the redesign and enhancement of its safety governance system.
  • Defended BHP Group against an unfair dismissal application brought by a former employee, who failed to safely organise the construction of a new road during a night shift.

Kingston Reid

John Makris is the key contact at Kingston Reid for all types of health and safety issues in the work place. His expertise covers the spectrum of issues from compliance and training to assisting clients with incident responses and prosecutions. He has long-standing experience of the construction, mining, infrastructure, transport and healthcare sectors where his expertise includes assisting with coronial inquests and workers compensation claims. He is part of a larger team who left K&L Gates to found this firm in late 2019.

Practice head(s):

John Makris

McCullough Robertson

McCullough Robertson regularly acts for clients in the resources and public sectors with notable examples on its roster including Australian Rail Track Corporation, Sydney Trains and Copper Mines of Tasmania. Alongside its experience handling serious or critical safety incidents and the related investigations and prosecutions, the group is also increasingly instructed by international clients establishing in Australia on advisory mandates. Scarlet Reid and Cameron Dean jointly lead the practice from Brisbane and Sydney respectively; Reid is a former prosecutor with SafeWork NSW and Dean is a key name for representing clients in civil and criminal investigations and inquests.

Practice head(s):

Scarlet Reid; Cameron Dean


The team has a depth of experience and knowledge, and is pragmatic and down to earth. It also provides excellent and accessible advice every time.

Tom Raeburn and Scarlet Reid are exceptional work, health and safety lawyers. They provide excellent customer service, support us in our business and understand how our organisation works.

Good knowledge and great delivery to timeframes.

Key clients

Australian Rail Track Corporation

Sydney Trains

Copper Mines of Tasmania Pty Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advising Australian Rail Track on the WHS and rail safety aspects of its Inland Rail project.
  • Acting for Sydney Trains in an external review of a decision by a SafeWork NSW inspector relating to the determination of work groups for health and safety representative elections.
  • Represented Copper Mines of Tasmania in an inquest relating to three fatalities at its Mount Lyell copper mine including the related Supreme Court proceedings and appeal.

Norton Rose Fulbright

At Norton Rose Fulbright, Katherine Morris heads up the practice following Aaron Anderson’s departure to Herbert Smith Freehills; Morris is singled out for her knowledge of the infrastructure and energy sectors and also acts for global high-risk organisations and government agencies. Clients also benefit from the firm’s global network and its health and safety legal risk management and 24/7 emergency response services in addition to its  national offices in Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

Practice head(s):

Katherine Morris

Work highlights

  • Defended the Victorian State Government’s Department of Health and Human Services in a prosecution brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to two offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) following an incident in which an employee of the department was assaulted by a resident at the Disability Forensic Assessment and Treatment Service.