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The Australian government developed a series of health and safety laws to help protect employees, employers, and citizens from occupational accidents. The original laws are outlined in the OHS 2004 legislation. However, the laws have undergone many changes over the years, including the introduction of the WHS (work health and safety) legislation and regulations.

Why do you need to follow these laws? Are these laws followed in every state? It may help to understand the purpose and goals of the OHS and WHS acts.

What Are the OH&S 2004 and the WHS 2011 Acts?

If you work, you have likely heard of the OH&S and WHS laws. These workplace health and safety laws were created to directly address occupational hazards. The laws include protections and responsibilities for employees and employers in most industries.

The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 includes a series of regulations for helping to identify hazards, perform risk assessments, and minimize the potential injury on worksites. Besides protecting workers, the laws also protect all other people who may be affected by the work, including:

  • Students
  • Trainees
  • Contractors
  • Subcontractors
  • Volunteers
  • Bystanders
  • Customers

The act includes responsibilities handled by employers and designated employees. In some cases, OHS and WHS training courses are required before employees can work in certain settings, such as working from heights or in enclosed spaces.

The OHS 2004 Laws Were Created to Promote Safety

The government, employers, and employee unions worked together to create the OHS Act, which was created to promote health and safety. The OH&S Act covers most workplaces through a series of health and safety regulations. These regulations were created in 2007 to help support the goals of the initial OHS Safety 2004 law.

Employees who work in offices, schools, hospitals, factories, farms, boats, vehicles, and construction sites are covered through the OHS Act and regulations. However, the petroleum and mining industries, along with Commonwealth government jobs, are covered through separate workplace health and safety laws.

The primary goal of the health and safety act is to help reduce the occurrence of workplace injuries and improve the safety of workers in various industries. After the act was developed, Australia has seen a reduction in occupational accidents. However, there is still room for improvement, especially when discussing on-road accidents involving light vehicles.

Understanding the Work Health and Safety 2011 legislation

In 2011, a new set of laws were developed to provide a more comprehensive approach to workplace safety. Safe Work Australia developed the new laws, which includes the model WHS Act.

With these new laws, the government hopes to create greater clarity surrounding workplace health and safety regulations. The process of developing the new regulations was detailed and included a national review with over 232 recommendations.

Is the OHS Act NSW now know as WHS in NSW? The WHS was not legally binding until the laws are separately implemented by the Commonwealth, states, and territories of Australia (this has been done now in NSW).. Most states and territories have already adopted these new laws (with the exception of Victoria and Western Australia).

The OHS Act QLD have been replaced with the WHS Act. The WHS legislation has also been implemented in New South Wales, the Northern Territory, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, and the Commonwealth.

In Victoria and Western Australia, the OHS Act Victoria and OHS Act WA still remain in place. Victoria was one of the first states to adopt a health and safety act after the creation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985.

To help support the duties of the new act, Safe Work Australia also developed the model WHS regulations. These regulations support the act through licensing and other requirements for improved occupational safety.

With the approved code of practice, Safe Work Australia has also created practical guides for maintaining the health and safety standards outlined in the WHS Act and regulations.

Conclusion: Do the OHS and WHS Laws Matter?

The OHS and WHS laws and regulations are designed to prevent accidents and improve worker health and safety. These laws are already having a positive impact on workplace conditions but there is always room for improvement. Complying with these laws is an essential step in promoting better safety.

If you are responsible for workers, ensure that they complete their necessary training requirements. Determine the regulations for your industry. With greater compliance, Australia may continue to experience fewer workplace accidents and injuries.

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