Workplace Health and Safety (WHS)

Creating a safe work environment is critical to the success of your business, and is one of the best ways to retain staff and maximise productivity. Though it may cost to implement safe practices and install safety equipment, the effect of not taking action can be severe.

As a business owner you have responsibilities regarding health and safety in your workplace. You need to ensure that your business doesn't create health and safety problems for your employees, customers or the public.

Knowing and understanding the WHS laws, previously known as Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S), will help you avoid unnecessary costs and damage to your business caused by workplace injury and illness. It will also provide your business with a strong foundation to achieve long-term success.

If you want to reduce health and safety hazards in your workplace but don't know where to begin, there are simple steps that will allow you to concentrate your efforts as well as help your business to be prepared in all situations.

Having the right attitude towards the safety of your workers, contractors, customers and the public is an important first step. WHS shouldn't be seen as an additional cost - it's better to deal with health and safety issues before they escalate.

If you're looking for assistance with WHS/OH&S requirements specific to your industry, you can utilise state or territory WHS agencies for advice and kits on how to incorporate safety management into your business operations.

Your WHS obligations

Under WHS legislation you are obliged to provide:

1. safe premises

2. safe machinery and materials

3. safe systems of work

4. information, instruction, training and supervision

5. a suitable working environment and facilities.

Complying with these duties can prevent you from being prosecuted and fined, and help you to retain skilled staff.

WHS authorities in each state and territory and Safe Work Australia have responsibilities for enforcing the WHS legislation. They provide education, training and advice on health and safety at work. You can get information about your workplace health and safety obligations and other valuable WHS/OH&S resources both in hard copy and online from their websites.

Please note that legal obligations of employers vary according to circumstances. You may wish to seek independent legal advice on what is applicable to your situation.

What to do...

1. Visit the Comcare website to find out more about workplace health & safety including training & how to promote WHS in your business.

2. Find out your obligations as an employer from your state or territory WHS agencies.

3. Visit Safe Work Australia for more information.

4. Read Business Victoria's Occupational health and safety guide.

5. Read about Safety in your workplace on the Safe Work Australia website.

6. Read section on work and travel if your employees travel for business.

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