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Responsibilities for WHS

The roles and responsibilities of all workers contribute to the delivery of a healthy and safe workplace. Your valuable knowledge, expertise and the motivation to improve health and safety are essential.

WHS or OH&S - what's the difference?

Before 2012, workplace health and safety (WHS) laws were known as Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) laws. These laws differed across Australian states and territories. To make the laws more consistent across Australia, in 2012 the state and territory governments agreed to develop model laws (WHS Act and Regulations), on which they could base their health and safety laws. The wording Occupational Health and Safety has gradually been phased out, so this information sheet will refer to Work Health and Safety (WHS).

What is Workplace Health and Safety (WHS)?

Workplace Health and Safety (WHS), involves the assessment and minimising of risks that may impact the health, safety or welfare of those in your workplace. This may include the health and safety of customers, your fellow workmates, visitors to site, contractors, volunteers and even suppliers. Your employer, as a business owner, is required by law to manage risks by:

  • eliminating risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable and

  • if elimination is not realistically possible, minimising the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Benefits of WHS in your workplace

Creating a safe work environment is a legal requirement and critical to the long term success of you employer's business. It can:

  • help them to retain employees
  • maximise the employee’s productivity
  • minimise injury and illness in the workplace
  • reduce the costs of injury and workers’ compensation
  • ensure they meet their legal obligations and employee responsibilities and
  • satisfy the needs and requirements of the person or company they are contracting to.

WHS obligations for business

As a business owner, your employer has legal responsibilities to implement health and safety practices in his workplace as soon as they started their business. They need to ensure that their business doesn’t create health and safety problems for their employees, contractors, volunteers, visitors, customers or the public.

Knowing and understanding WHS laws and how they apply to your employer will help you support your employer and your fellow workmates by working safely at the workplace.

Under Australian WHS Legislation your employer is legally obliged to:

  • provide safe work premises
  • assess risks and implement appropriate measures for controlling them
  • ensure safe use and handling of goods and substances
  • provide and maintain safe machinery and materials
  • assess workplace layout and provide safe systems of work
  • provide a suitable working environment and facilities
  • have insurance and workers compensation insurance for his employees.

Though it may cost to implement safe practices and install safety equipment, the effect of not taking action can be severe and costly. If they fail to comply with the WHS requirements they can be prosecuted and fined.

Your WHS obligations

Being employed also obligates you to undertake work health and safety responsibilities to yourself and your workmates. You must:

  • comply with instructions given for work health and safety
  • use any provided personal protective equipment (PPE) and be properly trained in how to use it
  • not willfully or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided for work health and safety at the workplace
  • not willfully place others at risk
  • not willfully injure yourself.