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OHSE201 Introduction to OHS

Teaching organisation

3 hours of lectures and tutorials per week for 12 weeks as the on-campus load during the semester or equivalent. Online students are expected to spend a minimum of 8 hours per week on study, readings and assessment preparation.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Several intersecting laws and legislative instruments interact in various workplace health and safety and environmental management arenas at the state, federal, and international level. These jurisdictions enable the protection of both environments, and the health, safety, and welfare of all workers. A core function of your practice as an OHSEM professional centres on assisting duty holders in complying with these laws. As such, developing knowledge of the regulatory structure and understanding how these laws are applied is integral to good practice. This unit provides an introduction to the Australian legal system, including the Common Law, the doctrine of judicial precedent, and the role of the Court. Specific legislation regulating work health and safety, (with a focus on national model laws (the harmonised scheme), and the protection of the environment, in so far as it relates to a workplace are considered. The aim of the unit is to provide students with an understanding of the legal framework regulating OHS and environment in order to assist in compliance with the legislation.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - explain fundamental legal concepts, the judicial court systems, common law and equity, and legal principles surrounding employment and environmental protection (GA5, GA8).

LO2 - identify and locate with use of legal databases, sources of relevant legal precedence/case law in order to articulate , through case analysis, to peers and organisational stakeholders how these ratio decidendi might impact on the OHS practices of the organisation or individuals (GA5, GA9), 

LO3 - analyse how OHSE risks to health or environment in organisations are legally required to be managed through study of systemic OHSE failures and inadequacies (GA4, GA5).

LO4 - interpret legal concepts and critically apply best legal practices in OHSE Management through the application of OHS and environmental legislation as it applies to organisations (GA5, GA8).

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include 

  • finding legislation and reading case law 
  • the Australian legal system 
  • maintaining currency with OHSE law 
  • overview of WHS Act and regulation and environmental legal framework 
  • recognise health and safety and environment duties 
  • demonstrate the duty to consult and provide training  
  • health and safety representatives and designated work groups  
  • authorisations and licensing 
  • offences, penalties and workers' rights
  • regulation and enforcement 
  • jurisdictional issues (other relevant jurisdictions for OHSE practice (electrical safety, mining safety, maritime safety, explosives, etc) 
  • interface with workers compensation and rehabilitation law as it applies to OHS practice 
  • interface with public safety, EEO and discrimination law as it applies to OHSE practice. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Mode: Online 

Pattern of attendance and duration: 12 week-semester or equivalent. 

Students should anticipate undertaking 150 hours of study for this unit, including weekly learning activities, readings and assignment preparation. 

This unit employs a learning strategy that combines active learning (reading, writing, discussion and problem solving) and peer learning (forum) methods. Live online classrooms will be offered at regular intervals throughout the teaching period in order to allow students synchronous access to your lecturer and peers at defined times. The provision of timely student feedback is also a key aspect of the learning and teaching strategy as this allows students to direct future learning behaviours and performance in a meaningful way. The online learning environment can be challenging in terms of encouraging student interaction and participation, and the Unit’s teaching methods have been chosen on the grounds that they are most likely to support the achievement of learning outcomes and participation by a geographically diverse cohort of students. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

Three assessment items are required in this Unit. The first, based around a weekly online discussion topic/question/scenario, requires you to combine your knowledge and understanding of OHSE law (including researching the law) with your own views and experiences (if relevant). It also requires you to consider and respond to views expressed or questions posed by other students. The second is report of a court case with a significant OHSE legal content and requires you to demonstrate your ability to succinctly write a case report, i.e. describe the relevant law and jurisdiction, the facts of the case, parties, legal points in contention, and the court’s findings/rulings. The third assessment item is an investigations report based assess students’ understanding of the application of law concepts to a factually based workplace incident. The scenario requires students to demonstrate in a practical way how they would apply work health and safety law concepts and legislative provisions to the workplace from the evidence presented.

In order to pass this unit, you are required to achieve an overall mark of at least 50% and make a credible attempt at each piece of assessment. The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for you to demonstrate your achievement of each learning outcome. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Discussion Forum

This task consists of a 1000-word submission comprising posts from the unit discussion forum (this includes three of the student’s own posts as well as three of their responses to other student’s posts). This task requires students to apply their knowledge of concepts of law, allows them to practice finding sources of legal precedence/case law, and conduct subsequent analysis and interpretation of legal concepts and practices.

Submission Type: Individual

Assessment Method: Discussion Forum Activity

Artefact: Written posts from discussion forum


LO1, LO2, 

GA5, GA8, GA9 

Assessment Task 2: Case Report

This assessment task consists of a 1500-word written case report. Using a specific case, this task aims to assess the student’s ability to find legal sources, and then interpret and apply them to critically analyse how OHSE risks in organisations are legally required to be managed.

Submission Type: Individual

Assessment Method: Case Report

Artefact: Written report


LO2, LO3,  

GA4, GA5, GA9 

Assessment Task 3: Investigations Report

The purpose of this 1500 word task is to assess your ability to apply law concepts to a factually based workplace incident. The scenario requires students to demonstrate in a practical way by way of a written report, how they would apply work health and safety law concepts and legislative provisions to the workplace from the evidence presented in order to determine the best possible practice in the event of such an eventuality .

Submission Type: Individual

Assessment Method: Investigations Report

Artefact: Written report


LO1, LO4 

GA5, GA8 

Electronic submission, marking and return is being used for this unit. Submission will be via Turnitin, and checking for academic honesty will occur. 

Representative texts and references

Creyke, R, Hamer, D, O’Mara, P, Smith, B, & Taylor, T 2018, Laying down the law 10th edn, Lexis Nexis Butterworths, Sydney 

Dunn, CE 2012, Planning work health and safety: an introduction to best practice, CCH Australia, Sydney. 

Foster, N 2016, Workplace health and safety law in Australia 2012, 2nd edn, Lexis Nexis Butterworths, Chatswood NSW  

Pearce, D C; Geddes, R S (2019), Statutory Interpretation in Australia. 9th Edn, LexisNexis Butterworth, Sydney

Parliamentary Education Office and Australian Government Solicitor 2018. Australia’s Constitution Pocket Edition with Overview and Notes by the Australian Government Solicitor. Revised 7th edn, Commonwealth of Australia

Tooma, M 2012, Tooma’s annotated Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Thomson Reuters Lawbook Co., Australia, Sydney.

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