Articles > Employment

What is the Difference Between WHS and OHS?

August 8, 2023   Anthea Dinh-TramPhilip Evangelou

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    While WHS is an acronym for Work Health and Safety and OHS stands for Occupational Health and Safety, both describe the safety of individuals in a worksite. They share the same meaning and are used interchangeably. However, the proper term to use is ‘WHS’ as of 2022. 

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    About OHS

    Before 2012, WHS laws were known as OHS laws. They involved the various laws for maintaining health and safety in the workplace by each Australian state and territory. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2006 is a state based law that codifies the responsibilities of employers, employees, officers, and contractors in regards to safe conduct at work. 

    About WHS

    After 2012, WHS was the term adopted to describe the laws for the health and safety of people at work. WHS is a federal law arising from the ratification of Work Health and Safety Regulations by all states and territories. The regulations apply consistently across Australia, whereas it was previously varied between states and territories with OH&S laws. 

    Current WHS obligations for employers include responsibilities to:

    • Identify hazards in the workplace;
    • Assess risks and implement measures to control them;
    • Provide and maintain safe plans, structures, systems of work etc;
    • Provide safety equipment, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where required;
    • Provide workers with a WHS induction, training, and supervision where necessary;
    • Monitor the health conditions of employees to avoid illness and injury.

    Safe Work Australia is the national body responsible for developing WHS policy. They drafted the term ‘work’ opposed to ‘occupational’ to ensure their policies applied more broadly to work than specific occupations. It extends the responsibilities of supervisors to include temporary workers like contractors. 


    Both WHS and OHS refer to responsibilities to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. WHS is the proper term to be used post-2012. It is important for businesses to comply with WHS policies to avoid facing fines and penalties for any injuries and illnesses caused to workers. 

    If you’re unsure about WHS at your workplace, contact a lawyer at OpenLegal for advice at 1300 937 574.

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    About Anthea Dinh-Tram

    Anthea Dinh-TramAnthea works as a legal intern with OpenLegal, whilst studying a Bachelor of Communication (Public Communication)/Laws at UTS Sydney.

    About Philip Evangelou

    phillipPhil is a director at OpenLegal. He has over 16 years experience working in private practice and in-house counsel in Sydney and London, giving him expertise in employment law, IP, finance, leases, dispute resolution, insurance and contracts.

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