OH&S Courses and The Work Health and Safety Act

The Importance of WHS Training and the Work Health and Safety Act

Work Health and Safety: Importance For Business

Are you a business owner? Businesses need to be aware of their legal requirements under Australian Work Health and Safety legislation. Failure to comply with OH&S laws results in huge fines for both corporations and individuals. Business owners owe a duty to employees includes the requirements to have:

• A suitable working environment and facilities
• Appropriate training, supervision, information and instruction
• A safe workplace, machinery and systems of work

If you are seeking more information or advice on compliance with the Work Health and Safety Act, reporting workplace incidents, renewing or applying for licences, workers compensations claims or registering plant designs, contact your state regulator.

Work Health and Safety: Importance For Safety Representatives

For individuals, it is important you are aware of your OHS duties as well as those owed to you. Employees must work safety and ensure to protect themselves from injury by:

• Wearing PPE
• Following safety procedures
• Behaving in the appropriate manner as to not cause risk
• Reporting all OHS issues
• Not interfere with anything provided in an effort to keep the workplace safe

Work Health and Safety Act Explained

What is the difference between OHS and WHS?

One of the most frequent questions students ask is “what is the difference between OHS and WHS?” As confusing as it all can sound, its actually just an attempt to harmonise the laws across the country to standardise the requirements for all businesses. Ultimately, by creating the same laws across the country, safety officers and organisations alike will improve their compliance of the workplace health and safety laws protecting employees. In short, the difference between OHS and Work Health and Safety is the terminology change. “Occupational Health and Safety” was the original term used within legislation. This is now being changed to “Workplace Health and Safety”.

Have any other terms been changed?


“Employer” has been changed to “Person conducting a business or undertaking”. This refers to the person responsible for the occupational health and safety of workers and has the primary duty of care.

“Employee” has been changed to “Worker”. Workers now include labour hire staff, volunteers, apprentices, work experience, contractors and sub-contractors. There is no change to the duties of a worker.

“Officers” make decisions that affect the organisation and the duty to minimise occupational health and safety incidents.

“Other persons at the workplace” now includes students and visitors who are required to take reasonable care that their acts and omissions do not adversely affect the occupational health and safety of themselves or others. They also have the duty to comply with any reasonable instructions given to ensure health and safety.

What is the harmonised Work Health and Safety Act?

On 1 January 2012, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation replaced the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 and Occupational Health and Safety (Safety Standards) Regulations 1994. The new Work Health and Safety Act brought with it Codes of Practice that have now replaced the Occupational Health and Safety Code of Practice 2008.

Though there is one commonwealth act, each state will implement their own legislative requirements (many of which mirrors the commonwealth). States and territories who choose not to implement the newly harmonised Work Health and Safety laws must still enforce their own OH&S Act which incorporate the duties of different groups of people.

Who has agreed to implement the harmonised Work Health and Safety Act?

Currently, South Australia passed the new Work Health and Safety Act in November of 2012 and joins Queensland, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth jurisdictions where the new laws have been implemented. Tasmania will begin in 2013.

Who is yet to implement the harmonised Work Health and Safety Act?

Western Australia is yet to adopt the act but intends to do so following some amendments to the legislation. Victoria has stated they will not implement the harmonised legislation, yet remain committed to harmonisation. The laws are set to be reviewed in 2014. Currently, the OHS Act 2004 continues to apply.

Are there penalties for non-compliance?

Yes. For non-compliance with the new Work Health and Safety laws the maximum penalty is $3 million for a corporation and $600,000 or up to five years imprisonment for individuals.

What is enforceable?

Regulations are legally enforceable and may explain the duties of particular groups of people in regards to work health and safety. Codes are generally a “Code of Practice” and are merely advice for individuals or groups of people on how to meet the regulatory guidelines. These are not legally enforceable but can be used in a court situation as evidence of legal requirements. You can check out Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011 at Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel.

How can I ensure I comply with the new Work Health and Safety legislation?

The best way to ensure you are OH&S compliant is to be adequately trained in occupational health and safety. Undertaking an OHS course, like the Cert IV OHS/Work Health and Safety will provide you with the most up to date workplace health and safety skills and training and will assist you to improve the working conditions of your colleagues. Visit Inspire Education for more information on OH&S Courses.

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