Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) inspectors are granted considerable powers to require compliance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). These powers are often exercised during an investigation through the issuing of various WHS enforcement notices.

The following notices can be issued by WHS inspectors if reasonable belief is held that such a notice is required.


WHS inspectors will issue an improvement notice for a contravention of the WHS Act that does not result in the issue of a prohibition notice, unless the contravention can be remedied while the inspector is on site.

The improvement notice will order the person receiving the notice to fix:

  • the contravention;
  • things or operations causing the contravention; or
  • things or operations to prevent a possible contravention from occurring in the future.

The notice must state how the inspector believes the WHS Act is being contravened. Notices often contain numerous directions and recommendations, however, the WHS Act does not provide guidance on such content. 

Non-compliance with a WHS improvement notice can attract a maximum fine of $50,000*.


A WHS non-disturbance notice requires an immediate action and will apply for a period of up to 7 days from the date of issue. 

These notices are issued to:

  • preserve the site where a notifiable incident occurred; and
  • prevent the disturbance of a particular site or plant, substance, structure or thing associated with the site.

The non-disturbance notice will state the:

  • period for which the non-disturbance notice will apply (this will be for seven days or less);
  • measures to be taken to preserve a site or prevent the disturbance of a site; and
  • actions that can be taken even though a non-disturbance notice has been issued.

The maximum penalty for failing to comply with a WHS non-disturbance notice is $50,000*.


WHS inspectors will issue a prohibition notice in all cases where they reasonably believe that an activity is occurring or may occur involving a serious risk to the health or safety of a person emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard.

WHS prohibition notices can have severe impacts on a workplace by preventing certain procedures or items of plant from further use. The effects can be detrimental on a workplace. 

The prohibition notice will remain in effect until an inspector is satisfied the source of the risk has been remedied.  

The maximum penalty for non-compliance with a prohibition notice is $100,000*.

Seizure of

WHS inspectors have specific powers to seize things, such as plant, equipment or substances, in the following circumstances:

  • to prevent loss of the evidence or use of the thing where the inspector believes the thing (including a document) is evidence of an offence against the WHS Act;
  • for the thing to be analysed, tested or examined;
  • if seizing the thing is consistent with the purpose of entry; and
  • if the inspector believes the thing, workplace or part of the workplace is defective, hazardous or likely to cause an injury.

The WHS Act provides for options to challenge a notice issued by an inspector.

Internal review of a WHS inspector’s decision

An application can be made to WHSQ for an internal review of an inspector’s decision if a person disagrees with the reason for the inspector issuing the notice.

An application for internal review must be made within 14 days of receipt of the inspector’s decision to issue the notice. Once the application for review is made, a stay is granted on the original decision. This means the notice is not in effect during that period.

A reviewer, someone other than the original inspector, must consider the application and respond within 14 days of receiving the application for review. The reviewer can confirm or vary the original decision or substitute the original decision for another decision.

External review of a WHS inspector’s decision

If a person disagrees with the outcome of the internal review, they may apply to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission or the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal for a review of the decisions of the internal reviewer or the original decision of the regulator.

The outcomes following an external review may be:

  • confirm or vary the original decision;
  • set aside the original decision and substitute another decision; or
  • set aside the original decision and return the matter to the decision-maker with appropriate directions.

Get help from a WHS lawyer

If you receive a WHS enforcement notice, you should immediately and carefully review the contents to ensure you understand what is required and the timeframe involved. We can provide advice on whether we consider the notice to be drafted in accordance with the WHS Act and whether there are grounds to successfully challenge the issuing of a notice. 

* Penalties current as at August 2023

Contact Gilshenan & Luton

Work Health & Safety Lawyers Brisbane