By Fizzah Usama

Navigating around your Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) and Work Health & Safety (WHS) obligations can be difficult, and many businesses often ask us if there is a difference between OHS and WHS in Australia.

The short answer: No.


In January 2012 new WHS laws commenced in most states and territories to harmonise existing OHS laws across Australia. With this modification came a change in terminology, and OHS obligations became known as WHS obligations.

While the model laws have been implemented in most Australian jurisdictions, Victoria and Western Australia still follow their own workplace health and safety legislative framework. It is therefore important to find which laws are relevant for your business.

Workplace health and safety laws in Australia place responsibilities on employers or ‘Persons conducting a business or undertaking’ to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of their workers and prevent accidents and injuries at the workplace.

Under the workers compensation schemes in each State and Territory, employers are also required to obtain insurance to provide coverage for employees who become unfit to work as a result of accidents or injuries sustained at the workplace.

What are my WHS obligations?

Employers must be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonably practicable steps to ensure a safe work environment, which includes implementing a risk assessment procedure that is compliant with all relevant laws, regulations an industry standards.

In order to determine what is reasonably practicable, an employer is required to take into account the likelihood and extent of risks or hazards, the knowledge the employer should reasonably have in a particular situation, the size of the business or the resources available to the employer amongst other factors.

At the core of all work health and safety laws, employers have an obligation to:

  1. Identify workplace hazards;
  2. Assess risks and implement appropriate measures for controlling them;
  3. Provide and maintain safe plants, structures and systems of work;
  4. Provide Personal Protective Equipment and other relevant safety equipment where required;
  5. Provide all new workers with the relevant WHS induction;
  6. Provide all employees with relevant WHS training, information and supervision where necessary;
  7. Monitor the health conditions of all employees to prevent illness or injury at the workplace.

HR Assured can help your business

HR Assured can support your business with a full spectrum of HR and WHS solutions. All of our services are lawfully compliant and easy to use – you do not need to be an HR or WHS expert – every document, policy, or workflow is checked and updated by our parent company, Australia’s leading employment law firm, FCB Group.

From comprehensive audits and software to our 24/7 Telephone Advice Service, insurance and representation, and a library of resources, we can provide your business with some or all of our outsourced HR and WHS solutions. 

Have a question about the information in this article? 

If you’re an HR Assured client, contact our 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service.

Not an HR Assured client and need some advice? The team at HR Assured can support your business on a range of workplace matters. Contact us today to arrange a confidential, no-obligation chat. 

Fizzah Usama is our Workplace Relations Consultant at HR Assured and FCB Group (our parent company). She advises and supports our clients with any workplace issues via the company’s Telephone Advisory Service.