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How does WHS training empower workforces and help employers meet their legal obligations?

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Under Australian WHS/OHS legislation, employers are mandated to ensure a safe working environment for all workers. As well as providing a safe workplace where they assess and control risks, employers are also obligated to provide employees with adequate training, instruction, information, and supervision to perform their work safely and without risks to health.

Investing in WHS training for your workforce does more than just meet legal obligations; it introduces an additional layer of safety vigilance at work. Workers with WHS skills become invaluable assets, enhancing workplace safety and using their knowledge to reduce the risk of incidents. These skills boost their effectiveness and versatility.

Additionally, businesses and individuals may face criminal charges under Industrial Manslaughter laws if their negligence (which can include a lack of training in workplace safety) leads to a fatality. If found guilty, penalties may include hefty fines for businesses and jail terms for individuals (varying by state*).

What are an employer’s general legal obligations regarding safety training for their employees and contractors?

1. Identify training needs
Employers must identify the WHS training needs specific to their workplace and the needs of their workers by understanding the nature of the work, the risks associated with it, and the specific requirements of the WHS legislation that apply. This process involves analysing the current skills and knowledge of employees regarding health and safety practices to highlight areas where training is needed. This consultation should cover the types of training required, how it will be delivered, and who will receive it, utilising methods such as surveys, interviews, or discussions with health and safety representatives to ensure comprehensive coverage of training needs.

2. Induction training
All new employees should undergo induction training that covers WHS responsibilities, the identification of hazards, and the procedures for reporting and responding to potential risks.

3. Provide information
All workers must be provided with easy access to information about the risks in their workplace and the measures in place to manage these risks. Employers must develop and implement training programs tailored to the specific needs identified and must cover the following:
  • The WHS legal framework and the responsibilities of employers and workers.
  • How to identify, report, and manage workplace hazards and risks.
  • The correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Emergency procedures, including evacuation plans and first aid.
  • Specific training for health and safety representatives (HSRs) if elected, which includes negotiation and consultation processes.
  • The company policies and procedures which include the expectations regarding expected behaviours and how to meet those behaviours.

4. Competency-based training/ Verification of Competency (VOC)
Certain high-risk roles may require competency-based training. This might include your workers who operate heavy machinery, work at heights, or handle hazardous substances. Competency-based training often results in a recognised qualification, licence or ticket. Employers need to view, verify and record that each employee holds the relevant current qualification, licence or ticket, and through a verification of competency process, confirm their employee’s ability to undertake the tasks safely.

5. Keeping records

Employers must keep records of all WHS training conducted for their workers, including the content of the training, the trainer’s qualifications, and attendance records.

6. Ongoing education and refresher training

WHS training is not a one-time requirement. Regular refresher training should be provided to address changes in legislation, work practices, or the introduction of new equipment or technology. To maximise effectiveness and ensure training sticks, training should include ongoing embedding activities to keep the key messages and expected behaviours going.

7. Consult with workers
Employers are required to consult with all their workers on the ongoing effectiveness of WHS training programs.

Why go beyond the basics of safety training?

The outcomes of WHS training can extend beyond keeping workers safe and legal compliance. It helps employers retain talent, maximise productivity and can reduce business costs, as the frequency and severity of workplace incidents can influence an employers cost of workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

Training everyone in your workforce in WHS helps create teams that are conscientious, skilled, and ready to contribute to a safer working environment. An investment in safety training is the foundation for a productive, secure, and successful business operation.


*Industrial manslaughter laws in NSW and SA have legislation pending. No scheme in TAS to date.

Note: Please check your own state’s legal obligations to ensure you are following the most current legislation that applies to your specific state and circumstances. This is general information and not legal advice. Visit Safe Work Australia to find your State Regulator.

Safety Dimensions safety training courses are available for executives, frontline leaders and frontline staff.

Browse our safety training topics to find out more about our key programs which include:

The Executive Level Masterclass (1 day program) provides executive level due diligence, values and belief alignment and skill building to enhance the executive team’s engagement and influence over the cultural maturity of the organisation.

This program helps our students build an understanding of the value of role modeling safety behaviours, identifies the difference between LEAD and LAG indicators when creating a safe workplace and explains ways to embed LEAD indicators as well as accurately review and interpret LAG indicator statistics. Our short courses clarify legal obligations relating to health and safety, discusses values alignment to create consistent messaging and introduces key concepts and ideas within the Safety Leadership Foundation program for Frontline Leaders and the MATES program for frontline staff.

Your team of Frontline Leaders plays a crucial role in the management of HSE risk, and of course set the tone for the culture at the frontline. This award winning nationally recognised program, endorsed by the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner, has been deemed in Industry as a benchmark for all leaders who hold a safety-critical position.

This program provides tangible skills to leaders and will engage their hearts and minds, clarify the required safety leadership behaviours, challenge their current beliefs and values about safety, their own risk tolerance, and how they can make a difference through influencing others to make safer choices, build consultative behaviours (conversations that matter) and develop effective ways to resolve workplace difficulties and challenges.

The core foundation of the M.A.T.E.s program is that everyone is a leader of safety, and we can each make a difference if we speak up and get involved. To ensure frontline leaders and workers are aligned in relation to their safety beliefs – that each individual is mindful of their own personal safety, and has ownership of the safety systems and processes in place, this requires a focus on the frontline team members, for whom safety comes to life every minute they are working.

This program challenges the frontline team member to think about what they can do to support a safe organisation. It allows each person to connect meaningfully with safety, and ensures everyone has personal approaches they bring to work every day.

This program tackles some of the likely questions, such as Why does it apply to me?, I’m not a manager, is it really my job?, How do I manage myself, and talk with others if all harm really is preventable? The program reinforces your organisation’s safety and wellbeing philosophy and provides tools for anyone to have peer-level conversations to reinforce safe practices and lift risk awareness, particularly in routine tasks.

Not getting improvements in your safety leadership culture or safety statistics?  It’s highly likely your organisation has failed to engage your people at the ‘hearts and minds’ level required to create and sustain a strong safety culture.

Research shows unsafe acts (behaviours) contribute to 80% of accidents or incidents, whilst unsafe conditions contribute to 20% of accidents or incidents (Hollnagel 1993, Reason 1990).

Frighteningly, this shows that people’s behaviours are more responsible for accidents than unsafe environments. The statistics highlight that organisations can have the most stringent safety processes and procedures in the world, yet still have a high incident rate through a failure to engage workers’ values, beliefs, mindsets and attitudes – the keys to changing behaviour.

Safety Dimensions has developed a two-day ‘Engaging Hearts and Minds – Creating And Sustaining A Strong Safety Culture’ program, which blends two safety approaches:

1. Engaging the mind through Behavioural Based Safety (BBS) focused on changing behaviour by understanding the mechanics behind our behaviour and;

2. Engaging the heart through Values Based Safety (VBS) which focuses on what drives behaviour at a deep internal level by aligning safety with the values and beliefs of the individual.

 When blended together, Safety Dimensions’ approach captures the hearts and minds of a workforce to ensure sustainable behaviour change is achieved over time.

We all have an obligation to do our jobs without our judgement or behaviour being impaired. This is called being ‘fit for work’ and is the focus of this program.

While we must all understand what is expected of us in terms of being ‘fit for work’, our approach is to prevent impaired judgement and behaviour through education and support, so no one has to experience being told they are unfit for work.

Within this program we discuss what is expected in terms of safety and drugs and alcohol, yet, just as importantly, we will discuss the warning signals that indicate judgement or behaviour may be impaired, what action to take and support to access.

This module refines and enhances the skills and capabilities of leaders in the areas of hazard identification, risk analysis, and identification and implementation of appropriate risk controls.

This focus will ensure that leaders all understand the vital role those doing the work have, in ensuring risk assessments are completed in a manner that meets your required standards, and with regard to the real risks and hazards in the workplace.

It introduces a way of thinking about hazard identification and risk management as an everyday activity. This program is applicable to all areas of safety risk management. The program has a heavy emphasis on understanding the whole of the safety management system and what is required from each role.

Providing independent design, data collection and analysis of an organisation’s safety maturity is critical in determining gaps, creating solutions to improve and recommendations for implementation.

Consisting of surveys and focus groups and one-on-one discussions, Safety Dimensions consultants’ partner with companies on their safety leadership maturity journey to ensure organisations can benchmark their maturity prior to an intervention, and importantly evaluating success.

Ensuring new staff or contractors ‘live’ your safety leadership values, expectations and behaviour is critical to minimising harm in any workplace or work site. Safety Dimensions designs face-to-face and online safety inductions for projects, offices and organisations that not only focus on the ‘what’ is required, but also importantly expected behaviours, the ‘how’ in order to keep themselves and others safe.

Often organisations need to change procedures and policies which require different behaviours from staff members and contractors. Emailing out a new procedure or policy will not guarantee it will be followed – quite the opposite.

Whether the change relate to incident investigation, drug and alcohol testing, risk assessments, contractor management or communication and consultation, Safety Dimensions specialises in creating a series of short, informative and engaging sessions for organisations who need to remove resistance, increase compliance and, ultimately change behaviour so necessary and needed procedures can be adhered to because staff ‘want to’ rather than ‘are told to’.

Ensure effective management of WHS site risks and performance through learning how to effectively select, manage and monitor the complex and difficult world of contractors.

An organisation’s safety culture is at its strongest when it aligns its approach to contractors and its permanent workforce. This program covers the WHS obligations regarding contractors and has been designed to step through the various stages of effective contractor management including assessing, evaluating health and safety history, attitude and managing expectations of performance and reporting. Blending these concrete steps with the skills required to effectively manage others not directly in your employment, Contractor Management is one of our most popular and requested programs.

This highly interactive program gives participants the mindset and skill set to undertake or assist in incident investigations. The program demonstrates how to undertake a rigorous investigation in a way that is not based on assumption or blame.

The objective of the course is to help individuals create engagement, build shared understanding and cooperative identification and agreement on how to manage or eliminate the causal factors in order to reduce or nullify the likelihood of a similar occurrence in the future.

Leaders of all levels will enhance their ability to be involved and to ensure the reports they are sighting match what a ‘good’ investigation process finding will show. The program also clarifies personal and organisational responsibilities of those leading or assisting in an incident investigation process.