Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) can make or break your business. This Business Kitz blog will help you safeguard your business practices and procedures to maintain workplace health and safety. Often used interchangeably with Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), this article will take a look at what these terms mean and how they are applied to the workplace.
Difference between OHS and WHS?
There is no difference between these two terms as OHS has been replaced by WHS in Australia. However, the principles of OHS still apply in the contemporary understanding of WHS. The changes to the terminology reflect the shift towards a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to health and safety in the workplace.
What is Workplace Health and Safety?
Workplace Health and Safety applies to everyone associated with your workplace – employees, customers, visitors, suppliers, contractors, etc.. WHS refers to managing risks to everyone’s health and safety at the workplace by assessing and reducing the risks that can impact one’s health, welfare, and safety.
Common health and safety practices include:
- Creating a safe workplace
- Providing employees health insurance and compensation insurance
- Assessing the workplace environment
- Providing safe systems of work
In Australia, each state and territory has their own Workplace Health and Safety legislation, a regulator responsible for enforcing the respective laws. The legislation includes the following:
- WHS Act: defining and outlining the broad responsibilities
- WHS Regulations: outlining the specific requirements for hazards and risks like machinery, noise, manual handling, fire, etc..
- WHS Codes of Practice: provides practical information on how the requirements stated in the Act and Regulations can be met.
- Regulator (Regulating Agency): administers WHS legislation, inspects workplaces, offers advice and enforces the laws.
More information for all states and territories can be found here.
What are your obligations as an employer?
In order to comply with WHS laws and regulations, employers must take a proactive approach to identifying and controlling workplace hazards immediately after starting your business. This involves taking steps like:
- Creating a workplace that is safe
- Ensuring the workplace structure, machinery and working conditions are safe
- Ensuring the employees are able to safely handle and use any machinery, structure or substance
- Ensuring that all workplace substances, structures and machinery are safely stored
- Ensuring workplace facilities and safety equipment are available and maintained properly
- Ensuring employees are provided with the necessary training and supervision for their safety
- Keeping a track of workplace conditions and the health of your employees
Employees are required to be informed about the respective WHS obligations, and must look after their own health and safety, by avoiding any actions that can cause harm to others, and following the WHS procedures, instructions and policies of their workplace.
How to minimise workplace risks
A crucial part of your Workplace Health and Safety includes being ready to respond to potential accidents or emergencies. To minimise risks and to be better prepared, check that you:
- Have an emergency plan
- Have done a first aid assessment of your business
- Have enough trained first aiders to cover absences
- Have first aid equipment readily available and accessible
- Run emergency drills
- Have evaluated your business activities and operations
- Have a safe environment to work in even during extreme weather and events
- Have your internal policies and procedures up to date before any work functions or events
It is crucial to be aware of your Workplace Health and Safety legislation to keep yourself and your employees safe. Using a WHS Policy to outline the WHS obligations of your business can be extremely beneficial. Do note that your business’s WHS requirements also depend on the risks associated within your workplace and industry, hence it is important to check industry specific requirements regularly.
If you are not clear on your rights, obligations or any information regarding WHS as an employer, and require assistance, our sister company, Legal Kitz can assist you. To arrange a FREE consultation, with one of their highly experienced solicitors, click here today, or contact us at email@example.com or 1300 988 954.