Understanding Workplace Health and Safety

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What is Workplace Health and Safety?


Workplace Health and Safety (WHS), also known as Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S), are a series of laws and regulations.

They’re in place to ensure that employer’s make every effort to protect you (their employee and the public) from both physical and psychosocial workplace hazards.

From slippery floors, heavy loads, unguarded machinery and hazardous substances, to workplace bullying, violence and aggression, everything is covered.

In 2012 an Australian wide model formed as the basis for health and safety laws. But there are still regional variations, so it’s a good idea to have an idea about what your rights and responsibilities are within your state or territory.

What do WHS laws mean for you?


When you start at work or change jobs, these laws mean employers must provide:

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


Your responsibilities are likely to include:


  • following safe work procedures
  • using any personal protective equipment (PPE) required
  • not interfering with or misusing anything provided for work health and safety at the workplace
  • not placing others at risk
  • taking every precaution with your own health and safety
  • seeking help if your health and safety or of that of a colleague is at risk
  • reporting injury or illness immediately
  • reporting unsafe acts or conditions
  • undertaking all training required as part of the WHS


Starting a new job


When you first start work, or even if you move to a new role in the same company, you’ll probably start off with an employee orientation or induction (they pretty much mean the same thing).

Orientations are a run-down of all the important things you should know about day to day business and what happens in an emergency.

It’ll usually include an explanation of what the business expects from you. They’ll let you know about other departments in the organisation and describe the hierarchy (who you’re supervisors are and anyone else you need to report to). And you’ll learn more about the administrative processes you’ll need to do your job well, as well as any other miscellaneous policies and rules.

You’ll also cover the WHS topics such as:

  • hazards and risks in your workplace.
  • special equipment, such as personal protective equipment, which may require additional training
  • safe work practices
  • work health and safety legislation.
  • emergency procedures e.g. exits, evacuation measures, emergency contacts
  • location of the first aid station
  • how and where to report injuries, unsafe conditions and acts
  • your right to refuse hazardous work.

If you are going into a job that has risk associated with it, for example agriculture, transport, construction, electricity and gas services – then you’re more likely to have a more in depth induction.

You’ll be encouraged to ask questions at any time, so if you’re unsure about what to do or how to do it safely – make sure you ask. In new jobs you’ll also often have a mentor or supervisor you can check in with.

You may have an assessment after your orientation. It’s just to check you’ve understood everything and that training you were given was up to scratch.


Test your knowledge


Passport to Safety short workplace health and safety courses designed for young people preparing to enter the workforce for work experience, work placement, part-time or full-time work.

Virtual Hotel designed to test your knowledge on how to avoid injuries in bottle shops, kitchen, dining rooms and front bars.

Virtual Office a safety induction program for students and young workers entering an office based work environment for the first time.

Virtual Supermarket an online safety induction program is designed to help students and retail industry workers, to spot common safety hazards in the workplace caused by slips, trips and falls.

Quizzes, text, images, video and podcasts relating to current topical work safety issues.


Still want to read more?


For more information, including a complete list of all the WHS topics legislated for, Safe Work Australia’s webpage provides all the information you might need.

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