Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in the Workplace

All organisations and employers have responsibilities regarding health and safety in the workplace. They need to ensure that the business doesn’t create health and safety problems for employees, customers or the public. Creating a safe work environment is a key factor in the success of a business not only because it is one of the best ways to retain staff but also the impact it has on boosting productivity.

Though it may cost to implement safe practices and install safety equipment, the effect of not taking action can be severe. Knowing and understanding the occupational health and safety (OH&S) laws and new work health and safety (WHS) laws will help avoid unnecessary costs and damage to your business caused by workplace injury and illness.

Under occupational health and safety (OH&S) and new work health and safety (WHS) legislation you are obliged to provide:

  • safe premises
  • safe machinery and materials
  • safe systems of work
  •  information, instruction, training and supervision
  • a suitable working environment and facilities.

Workplace health and safety authorities in each state and territory and Safe Work Australia have responsibilities for enforcing the OH&S legislation.

New work health and safety (WHS) laws commenced on 1 January 2012 in many states and territories to harmonise occupational health and safety (OH&S) laws across Australia. WHS legislation includes a model WHS Act, regulations, Codes of Practice and a national compliance and enforcement policy. The model WHS Act is not significantly different from current occupational health & safety (OH&S) laws, but will make it easier for businesses and workers to comply with their requirements across different states and territories.

The following states and territories now use harmonised WHS legislation instead of previous OH&S laws:

Australian Capital Territory
The Commonwealth of Australia
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia

States and territories that have not yet implemented new WHS laws are still responsible for making and enforcing their own OH&S Act. These laws spell out the duties of different groups of people who play a role in workplace health and safety.

Some workplace hazards can cause so much injury or disease that specific regulations or codes of practice are needed to control them. These regulations and codes explain the duties of particular groups of people in controlling these risks. There is a difference between regulations and codes:

  • Regulations are legally enforceable
  • Codes of Practice provide advice on how to meet regulatory requirements but are not legally enforceable.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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