What is the difference between all those health and safety acronyms anyway?

A lot of our new clients come to us and say a similar thing. “I just got confused with all those health and safety acronyms! OHS, OSH, WHS or even WOSH… they all look the same, but are they?”


Commonly, businesses just don’t know why there are so many letters in different combinations, and what they actually mean for their business.


“I just got confused with all those health and safety acronyms! OHS, OSH, WHS or even WOSH… they all look the same, but are they?”


The fact is that the reason they seem the same, is because… you guessed it, they are. The variation in terminology is generally a result from how the health and safety legislation is titled in each Australian state, or the body that regulates the implementation of that legislation.



The common safety acronyms explained

Here’s a few of the common ones you see around explained:


  • WHS: In all Australian stated (other than VIC and WA), you will see people referring to WHS – Workplace Health and Safety due to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 or Work Health and Safety Act 2012
  • OHS: In Victoria you will see people referring to OHS – Occupational Health and Safety due to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • OSH: In WA you will see people referring to OSH – Occupational Safety and Health due to the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984
  • HSW: In Great Britain and New Zealand you will see people referring to HSW [Health and Safety] due to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and 2015 respectively.
  • HSE: In Great Britain, you may also see people referring to safety as HSE – this is in reference to their regulator Health and Safety Executive.
  • OSHA: This referencing of the regulator also holds true in the USA. People referring to safety as OSHA aligning with the regulator: Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  • EHS: This time, adding the E in there means “Environment”. This adds a layer of environmental considerations to workplace health and safety.


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Put simply, these safety acronyms mean exactly the same thing. They guide businesses to make a commitment to establish a workplace where a worker will leave work with the same physical and mental health that they presented to work with.



Onwards and upwards – getting safety moving

So if you use the terminology interchangeably, this really isn’t an issue. If you do get corrected by some smarty pants, point out that maybe they should be more concerned with the goal of keeping workers safe and healthy in the workplace, and less concerned about technicality and semantics.



These acronyms often just serve to make workplace health and safety seem even more complex that it already seems to people. So, we say, put the acronym aside for the moment, and just focus on what’s important.


And it’s this. All of this, all these acronyms, are simply about one thing: How can we make workplaces safer so that no one is hurt at work!


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Alright that’s it from us – be sure to check out our other blogs for more useful information about safety. Try these ones next:

Health and safety legislation – the basic explanation

Why you should pay attention to prosecutions data

How you can identify the common injury hotspots in your industry?

One of the most difficult parts of business is managing your legal OHS and WHS obligations. Your business has responsibilities to both know and manage the ‘common’ health and safety hazards that are specific to your industry. But this means that you need to be proactive in identifying foreseeable hazards. It is only when you identify what could go wrong that you can actually prevent nasty things from occurring by planning and implementing strategies to avoid them.


For example, in the retail sector repetitive work, excessive carrying and lifting, or awkward postures are common causes of back and shoulder injuries. But, businesses must first know that poor manual handling practices like these commonly lead to injury, before they can develop strategies to manage the risk. So how do you know what is ‘foreseeable’ when you are not exactly an occupational health and safety expert?


Free safety promotion poster set for your workplace. Download now.

“I’m no OHS expert, how do I know what the ‘common’ OHS hazards are in my industry?”


Well, we are glad you asked! WorkSafe Victoria has this fantastic, freely available online tool that will tell you exactly which health and safety risks you should look out for in your workplace. They have even provided some great practical solutions for mitigating these risks. And some of these are so easy you can start implementing them today.


It’s called Injury Hotspots. Just type in your industry and then click on the body parts to read about common hazards and the practical solutions that you can adopt to avoid these hazards from occurring. The site also gives you links to all the official health and safety legislation documentation that you might need to learn more.


Now we think this is an incredibly useful tool for any business owner or team manager who is responsible for protecting the health and safety of their workers. So, why not jump online today and explore more about what you should be looking out for?


After you’ve learned a little more about the hazards in your industry, now you are ready to implement strategies to mitigate the risks. Read more about how to develop and achieve your health and safety targets and objectives. In addition, contact us to learn more about how our software can help your business keep managing OHS in your business nice and simple.

Three questions you need to ask to positively lead mental wellbeing discussions in your workplace

The Victorian Workplace Mental Wellbeing Collaboration Business Leaders Breakfast was held on 7 March 2017. We were keen to be there, so arrived promptly at 7am, with coffee in hand, of course.

Mental wellbeing is a hazard that most workplaces are nervous to engage in conversation about and as OHS professionals we definitely get that. Unlike a broken bone or laceration, a mental health injury isn’t always noticeable, which can make it hard to manage. This said, as mental health becomes better understood and more accepted as a health hazard in the community, awareness of the positive benefits associated with mental wellbeing are becoming more and more prominent in a workplace. The great thing about awareness is that it provides workplaces with an entry point to start conversations with their workers.


How would you assist a worker who came to you with a mental wellbeing issue, or advised you that they were struggling or needed support?

How to manage such a situation was one of our team’s main take-aways from this breakfast. And the good news is that once discussed in the open, it felt as easy as A, B, C.

To facilitate tangible and positive outcomes as a manager, it is crucial that rather than talk, you listen. Frame your conversation with your worker around the following three questions:

  1. What is it that you need to do your job and to go home every day with energy to enjoy the life you live?
  2. What are you going to do differently to support your wellbeing in the workplace?
  3. If I see that you are struggling or not performing, how would you like me to approach you? Tell me the exact words do you want me to use.


Now, more than ever, it is important for workplaces have the confidence and the skills to manage mental wellbeing issues when they arise in the workplace.

So keep these questions at hand. Practice the conversation with your peers and seniors. Get comfortable and be prepared. If you can effectively create an open and supportive space for your workers to feel confident to speak about their pressures and worries, you will have a much better chance of addressing the issue and protecting the health and safety of your workers. And this will result in positive outcomes for your worker, yourself and your business.

Over the coming months, we’ll be providing more ideas and thoughts on ways that you can improve your capability to promote and manage positive mental wellbeing in your workplace. Stay tuned for more from us.


The Leaders Breakfast was headlined by Mary Ann Baynton, Program Director for the Great West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, and Chair of the technical committee for the National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

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