Safety Qualifications - What Do I Need?


There are so many qualifications and training courses available in the safety area, it is difficult to know the best course for you. Due to changes in legislation, changes in the vocational education and training sector and shifts in industry, it is no wonder people are getting confused.

Here’s a snap-shot of what is available and what the differences are:

Health and Safety Representative

Persons who will be acting in the role of an elected Health and Safety Representative (HSR) for their organisation will be seeking this course. The Work Health and Safety Act and Regulation 2011 requires that where a person is elected as a Health and Safety Representative, they are entitled to attend a five-day training course prescribed under regulation, and refresher courses at twelve month intervals.

In Queensland, this five day course must be delivered by a registered training organisation (RTO) who has approval to deliver from the regulator Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ).

The duration of the course is not able to be shortened, the five day delivery length is mandated. Please note, however, that this course, although mandated under legislation for those elected HSR’s who request it, is non-accredited, which makes it difficult to use as part of a recognition of prior learning process.

The course has no set level under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) due to being non-accredited. On saying that, as an RTO who delivers the course, we would deem it to sit at around a Level 2.

Workplace Health & Safety Officer (30596QLD)

Under the now repealed 1995 Workplace Health and Safety legislation there was a requirement for those businesses with 30 or more workers (or for construction companies who built 30 or more houses in a 12 month period) to appoint a Workplace Health and Safety Officer (WHSO).

This was mandated under the old legislation, and involved a five day face-to-face course for the core units, and then further days for the elective units (2 days for service industries, 3 days for industrial industries and 4 days for construction).

When the safety legislation was harmonised (commencing 1 January 2012) this requirement was removed, and the legislation simply stated that safety advisors should receive appropriate training.

Due to the greyness of the word appropriate, WHSQ issued a fact sheet stating the Certificate IV in Occupational Health and Safety would be deemed appropriate training, as the Certificate IV qualification sat at a level similar to the WHSO course, which sat at around a level 3-4 in the opinion of those delivering it (the WHSO course had no ‘official’ level).

This course is no longer available for delivery.

Certificate IV in Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) (BSB41407)

This qualification effectively replaced the WHSO course, and many existing WHSO’s upgraded to the Certificate IV in OHS via the recognition of prior learning process. This also became the standard safety training for the mining industry, and as such proved to be a popular course.

However, this course was to be superseded quickly by a similar qualification called the Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety. This replacement qualification was deemed ‘equivalent’ to the previous OHS qualification, as it was stated the changes were mostly amendments in terminology within the qualification to reflect the new harmonized legislation   i.e. WHS instead of OHS, duties of workers instead of obligations of workers, etc.

Although there was no necessity for people to upgrade from the OHS qualification to the WHS qualification, many people did anyway, to enable them to keep up to date with the industry, and have the edge on others with regards to career aspirations.

Certificate IV in Work Health & Safety (WHS) (BSB41415)

This qualification is the current WHS qualification and sits at level 4 on the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). This is still the current qualification sought by industry for those who wish to have a safety role within their organisation. This qualification is quite generic, and covers all industry sectors. The code BSB41415 supersedes the previous code BSB41412, however the two qualification codes are equivalent, as they have just updated the look and feel of the units. 

The qualification has five core units, which concentrate on WHS, and then five electives. The five electives can contain WHS units, however there is the ability to not include any further WHS units and have business units instead.

This qualification will provide the knowledge for a safety officer within an organisation to explore the link between WHS structures and issues in the workplace; familiarise themselves with WHS laws, rights and duties, understand hazard identification and the effective control of hazards; critically examine the concept of risk assessment and management systems; respond to incidents and assist with implementing emergency procedures.

Below this is the Certificate III in Work Health and Safety, for those new to safety, and with limited prior vocational experience. This is an excellent entry level, awareness course which provides hands-on skills for those considering a career in safety.

The next level up from the Certificate IV is the Diploma of Work Health and Safety which moves the candidate out of the hands on safety duties, and into a managerial role where they are writing the safety systems, analysing safety data, and coordinating those ‘on the ground’.

Course in Functioning as a Work Health & Safety Advisor  (10312NAT)

When the WHSO course ceased under the new legislation, the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) obtained the licensing rights to the accredited WHSO course and revised it into the Safety Advisor course.

Due to the specific nature of the old WHSO course, and the way it drilled down into specific hazards and risks of various industries, many people lamented its demise, and were very sorry to see this course go, as it provided a very hands on, grass roots understanding of health and safety.

For that reason, the SIA have re-released this course as a nationally accredited course (not a qualification). They have called it 10312NAT Course in Functioning as a Work Health and Safety Advisor.

The intent of this course is to extend the existing skills of workers to gain knowledge of workplace health and safety legislative requirements in order to function as a Work Health and Safety Advisor (WHSA).

The course provides the candidate with the skills and competencies to advise persons in control of a business or undertaking (PCBU) about the overall state of health and safety at the workplace, conduct inspections to identify hazards and unsafe or unsatisfactory workplace health and safety conditions and practices and report back to the PCBU, establish appropriate educational programs in workplace health and safety, investigate, or assist the investigation of, all work injuries and illnesses, including notifiable incidents, help inspectors in the performance of the inspectors’ duties, and report to the PCBU if any work injury, work caused illness, dangerous incident or immediate risk to workplace health and safety at the workplace occurs.

As well as being a course for persons working in a WHS Advisor role, it is also very beneficial for those in a supervisor role where a knowledge of WHS legislation is required (e.g. site supervisors and project managers in construction workplaces, factory managers, senior staff in service industries, etc).

Diploma of Work Health and Safety (BSB51415)

For those who wish to take their career to the next level in safety, the follow on course from the Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety is the Diploma qualification.

The Diploma sits at a higher level than the Certificate IV and concentrates on the design and development of safety management systems, as well as the implementation of the systems across an organisation. Those with a Diploma are generally not 'at the coal face' of safety, and are more advisory in nature - hence they are not necessary operational in the conduct of inspections, audits, hazard identification, etc.

To enrol in a Diploma of Work Health and Safety, you must first hold the five core units of the Certificate IV in WHS qualification, as you need to have the 'on the ground' knowledge the Certificate IV provides to enable full understanding of the higher level implementation. 


That’s nice, I hear you say. But I still don’t know which one to choose…. let us try to assist:

Obsolete – you can no longer choose these two

  • Workplace Health and Safety Officer training – no longer available.
  • Certificate IV in Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) – no longer available.


For those who have been elected Health & Safety Representatives

  • Health & Safety Representatives course

No accredited outcome, however mandatory five day training for those HSR’s who ask for training. If your HSRs don’t ask for training, you don’t have to give it.

Please note even if you have higher level qualifications, if you want to be a trained HSR and issue provisional improvement notices (PINS) you must attend this training.

Elected HSR’s have a term of 3 years, and during that time, once they have completed the 5 day training, they are entitled to 1 day refreshers every 12 months.


For those who want to work as a Safety Advisor or have a safety related position.

  • BSB41415 Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety

This is accredited, will provide you with a qualification, and is a generic ‘all-rounder’ qualification for safety, however it does not drill down deeply into the legislation (it does cover the duties of the various parties), nor does it provide an in-depth look at hazard identification and control.

  • 10312NAT Course in Functioning as a Work Health and Safety Advisor

This is accredited, will provide you with a Statement of Attainment, and goes into more depth with regards to the various hazards and controls found in specific industries. This course delves into legislation, and will provide the candidate with a more thorough understanding of safety observations, inspections and control measures.

For those in the construction industry, it provides a stronger understanding of the safety considerations in your industry, including useful instruction in things like filling in safe work method statements, and how to work around those activities defined as high risk work.

For those in the industrial and service industries, the elective units drill down into the specific hazards and controls most commonly found in your particular industry.

  • Dual Qualification Offer - Certificate IV in WHS and Functioning as a WHS Advisor

Total Management and Training are offering the two safety courses above as a dual offer for those who can't decide which one to do. The Certificate IV in WHS, and the core units of the Safety Advisor course are delivered in the classroom over one week (some assessment tasks are then completed in the students' own time). Then students go on to choose their elective. This saves both time and money for those wanting both qualifications. Those who choose the combined offer will save an astounding $1450 off the price of doing the courses separately. This is a very popular choice.


For those who don’t wish to obtain a full qualification, or attend a lengthy course, there are always short courses available to build safety awareness.

Total Management and Training has the following short courses for those who simply wish to keep up with what is happening in the safety space:

  • WHS for Business Owners and CEO’s   (2 hours, non-accredited)

Excellent for enlightening business owners of their duties under the legislation.

  • WHS for Managers and Supervisors   (1 day, accredited using BSBWHS401)

Excellent for managers who need to understand what they are responsible for under the current WHS legislation, and an understanding of the risk management process.

  • WHS for Committee Members  (2 days, non-accredited)

An excellent course for those who sit on a WHS committee, but may not hold positions such as HS Rep, or Safety Advisor. It provides them with the knowledge and skill to add value to safety discussions, by knowing what role they have to play.

  • Risk Management training  (1 day, accredited using BSBRSK401)

This course is suitable for all employees, and helps them to understand the risk management process, and their duty to ensure the safety of themselves and others. It covers things such as ‘Take 5’, hazard identification, risk evaluation, controls and monitoring.


Please be aware the above information is based on the legislation in Queensland, which adopted the model Work Health and Safety Act and Regs, with minor amendments, as part of harmonisation. Most other States and Territories run under the same legislation with the exception of Victoria and Western Australia.

Hopefully you are no longer confused. If you do require assistance in determining training needs, or you require specific assistance with a safety issue, please don’t hesitate to contact the friendly team at either Queensland Training Services, or Total Safety Services who have many years of experience assisting organisations with safety training and compliance.



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