Are OHS and WHS the Same? Navigating the Terms for Work Health and Safety

are ohs and whs the same

Are OHS and WHS the same?
Navigating the terms for Work Health and Safety

The field of Occupational or Work Health and Safety is highly regulated and at times complex. Between the laws and the ongoing training, the field of WHS (Work Health and Safety) can be difficult to navigate at the best of times; but one of the most confusing aspects of this field is the jargon. The terminology, for example; what is OHS, what is WHS? Are these two the same?

You may have heard these two acronyms before. OHS stands for Occupational Health and Safety and WHS stands for Work Health and Safety.

If at a glance you thought that these two acronyms meant the same thing, you’d be correct. There is no real difference between them.

So why do we have two different acronyms for the same thing?

The change in the terminology came in 2012 when a shift in legislation changed the nature of the laws which govern our workplace health and safety. Previously we had OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) laws which differed from state to state. After 2012 they brought in national WHS (Work Health and Safety) laws which were uniform across the different states and territories.

What is WHS?

WHS stand for Work Health and Safety and it is a standard and a set of regulations that employers must follow, for example:

  • Providing a safe working environment
  • Providing staff with safety equipment
  • Doing WHS inductions for all staff
  • Taking reasonable steps to avoid workplace incident and injury
  • Assessing risk

And the staff of a workplace are obligated to work with their employers and colleagues within the WHS guidelines to create and maintain a safer working environment.

This includes:

  • Complying with Work, Health and Safety regulations
  • Using safety equipment and personal protective equipment given to them
  • Not willfully placing themselves or anyone in harms way

Who is in charge of WHS?

It is the legal responsibility of the employer to have a WHS plan and system in place in the workplace. Employees also have a responsibility to follow the WHS plan and minimise their risk; as well to report anything that could impact the WHS plan.

The WHS laws are regulated by each state and territory within the larger national Workplace Health and Safety laws.

How does it work in Queensland?

In Queensland, workplaces over a certain size are required to elect a Health and Safety Representative. This person is an employee who is also in charge of making sure the WHS laws and regulations are adhered to in the workplace.

It is their job to liase with staff and communicate any concerns or WHS issues to management and then work with management to address these issues.

What course do they have to study?

To be a Queensland Work Health and Safety Representative you have to complete the WHSQ-HSR-NCB01 Health and Safety Representative course.

This course is the legal requirement for those who are appointed to the position of HSR in Queensland.

How long does the course take?

The Queensland Health and Safety Representative course is completed in a 5 day face to face workshop. The workshop runs from 9am – 5pm each day and students are required to attend all five days and complete the course work in order to receive the qualification.

Health and Safety Representatives are also required to complete a one day refresher course annually to stay on top of their training and changes in the industry.

What does the course cover?

The course will help you gain:

  • A clearer understanding of WHS legislation
  • How it applies to your role as an elected Health and Satey representative and;
  • Additional knowledge and skills regarding your powers as under the WHS legislation to issue Provisional Improvement Notices (PINS) and direct unsafe work to cease

In the course you will learn:

  • The Work, Health and Safety framework
  • Consultation, Representation and Participation
  • Issue resolution, support for HSRs and Managing Risks
  • Inspections, Notifiable incidents and incident investigation
  • Provisional improvement notices (PINs) and directing unsafe work to cease orders.

This course is accredited by Work Cover Queensland and once completed, you will be able to do your job as a HSR and issue PINs (provisional improvement notices).

How much does the course cost?

This course costs $695 but we do have payment plan options, you can check them out here.

We hope you found this article helpful in understanding whether OHS and WHS are the same. If you are thinking about broadening your horizons and becoming a Queensland Health and Safety Representative you can learn more about the course here or you can get in touch with our friendly course advisors here.

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