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What is Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) and why is it important?

04 November 2021

Created to reduce workplace health risks and hazards, every business has obligations under WHS regulations – so what are they and why are they important?

According to The Australian Government, Work Health and Safety (WHS), or sometimes known as Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S), promotes and functions to ensure the prevention of accidents and incidents within a work environment. WHS looks to safeguard the health and safety of all employees, as well as anyone who participates in a business’s operations including customers, visitors, and suppliers. 

Businesses and employers have the responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees is at the forefront of their work, with potential risks and safety measures required to be put in place to ensure there are no work-related injuries. When WHS is effectively implemented, it saves the employer money that would otherwise be used in dealing with accidents, paying compensation, and dealing with rehabilitation bills. It also saves time, improves staff productivity, and most importantly reduces injury within the workplace.

As a legal requirement, WHS laws are critical to the long-term success of a business. Each state has its own WHS laws with a regulator to enforce them. Safe Work Australia identifies that the WHS framework for each state includes:

  • Act – outlines your broad responsibilities
  • Regulations – sets out specific requirements for certain hazards and risks, such as noise, machinery, and manual handling
  • Codes of practice – provide practical information on how you can meet the requirements in the Act and Regulations
  • Regulating Agency (regulator) – administers WHS laws, inspects workplaces, provides advice, and enforces the laws. 

Your business’s WHS requirements also depend on the industry you belong to. Different industries have differing legal, operational, and business requirements due to the differentiation in the type and extent of risks that may be present. 

WorkSafe Victoria clearly outlines the role that both employers and employees have in taking responsibility of WHS in a workplace, for it to be implemented effectively. Per WHS laws, it is the employer’s sole duty of care to make provisions for a safe work environment, for example providing adequate work training, regular maintenance of equipment and buildings, ensuring reduction, and if possible, complete elimination of potential hazards, regular work breaks, as well as consistent incident investigations when occurred. 

It is then within the employee’s obligation to adhere to WHS laws and procedures implemented within their workplace. These obligations include remaining vigilant and notifying their employees of any existing hazards, not being reckless or misusing equipment and considering their actions and how these may affect the health and safety of themselves and others.

We all want to and deserve to feel safe at work and this is why WHS exists - to prevent injury and illness, and most of all, save lives. Back2Work Solutions is a leading provider in injury management, workplace health and return to work services across Australia. Utilising a person-centred approach and developing a tailored return to work solutions, our team of highly qualified allied health professionals work to maximise recovery and overcome workplace barriers. Find out more by visiting our website