If you work in the safety industry, chances are that you've heard of OHS and WHS. There has been a lot of confusion about the difference between the two. You might have even heard people refer to them as the same thing. But are they? The answer is: Yes. While OHS does stand for Occupational Health and Safety, WHS stands for Workplace Health and Safety, the truth is that there is no difference between them. Both terms are used for describing the same thing: the safety of individuals working on the job site or in a company.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2006 (OHS) is a State based law that provides for the health and safety of workers in the workplace. It also details the responsibilities of employers, employees, officers and contractors. While the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS) is a Federal based law that provides for the health and safety of workers in the workplace. It also details the responsibilities of employers, employees, officers and contractors.
Current state of affairs
The change from OHS to WHS came in 2012 after a dramatic overhaul to Australia's workplace laws. Previously there had been significant differences in the OHS laws between states, but after the new Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations were ratified by all states and territories in 2012, making it a consistent legislature across the country.
Today, WHS is the new term for OHS – an appropriate acronym describing special activities geared towards meeting the health and safety needs of workers in the workplace in the nation of Australia. However do note that it is still being used interchangeably with OHS. Most importantly – when used, the users are referring to the same thing.
Why is it important?
Health and safety is a key area of responsibility when running a business in Australia. From computer software to forklifts and everything in between, if you are an employer in Australia, you must comply with health and safety regulations. If you don’t, you could face fines and even imprisonment.
That’s not all; workplace related injuries and illnesses cost Australian businesses huge sums – running into billions of dollars per year in compensations, loss of productivity, liabilities and other extra costs.
OHS or WHS, the aim is the same. So, it doesn’t matter how a company chooses to describe it, just know that they mean the set of conditions and activities created by an organisation to ensure the safety and welfare of their employees.
And going by current Australian laws, the purpose of workplace health and safety (WHS) is to protect workers, their families and others from harm in the workplace. This is accomplished by developing healthy and safe work practices, providing adequate training and supervision, and implementing appropriate policies as well as effective communication strategies.
While antecedent points to the possibility of what is referred to as WHS today changing in the future, the goal remains the same – to significantly reduce fatalities and injuries in the Australian workplace.