Workplace health and safety updates

In this new regular inclusion in the Customer Konektions newsletter we will be addressing some of the most significant issues facing workplace health and safety professionals in Australia. The initial topics covered will address aspects of the recent work health and safety laws which commenced in most States and Territories in 2012.

These recent WHS laws signify a concerted effort to provide a nationally consistent legal framework for health and safety in Australian workplaces. The first subject we will cover is meeting your duty of care obligations under the WHS Act. We hope you find the information contained in this new section of the newsletter valuable. If there are topics you would like to see address please email through your suggestions to marketing@konekt.com.au.

Meeting your Duty of Care Obligations under the WHS Act

Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) legislation requires a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs – the recent term that includes employers) to, as far as reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of workers it engages, influences or directs. The PCBU must also ensure the health and safety of other persons, such as visitors. Furthermore, a worker also has a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and also that of anyone else at the workplace.

Most notably however the PCBU must ensure they fulfil their duty of care requirements by looking at the work environment, systems, plant and structures used, substances handled or stored as well as providing adequate information, instruction, training and supervision for work to be carried out safely.

The duty of care onus is on directors, company secretaries and any person who makes or contributes to decisions affecting the business or influencing the financial position of the corporation. These ‘officers’ of the corporation must exercise due diligence and ensure compliance. The reasonable steps officers must take to ensure they are exercising due diligence includes, but is not limited to:

1. Acquiring and keeping up-to-date knowledge of work health and
safety matters;

2. Gaining an understanding of the nature of the business’ operations and a general understanding of the associated hazards and risks;

3. Taking reasonable steps to ensure there are appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks;

4. Ensuring that the business has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazards and risks and that there are appropriate processes for responding in a timely way to this information; and

5. Verifying that the business has in place compliance processes such as workplace consultation and training.

How can you meet your Duty of Care Obligations under the WHS Act?

Here is a quick checklist to run through to ensure you are fulfilling your Duty of Care WHS requirements;

  • Have you got an understanding of the WHS legislation, codes of practice and safety guidelines?
  • Are you keeping up to date with changes in WHS matters and accessing industry specific WHS information such as from industry associations?
  • Are you within your PCBU, undertaking regular workplace inspections?
  • Are you consulting with workers about WHS hazards and risks?
  • Have you implemented a reporting system to ensure information about incidents, emerging hazards and
    risks is kept?
  • Do you provide training and instruction to workers about WHS?
  • Are you aware of your obligations for health and safety representative training?
  • Have you arranged a regular safety auditing program?
  • Do your board reports include relevant WHS information which identifies gaps to address safety issues?

If you require further information to ensure you have meet your due diligence requirements, contact the Konekt Professional Services Group for further assistance.

References
1 Workcover NSW, ‘Due diligence’ (2014) NSW Government

Konekt has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained within this article. The article should not be construed as advice. Konekt cannot guarantee and assumes no legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currency, completeness or interpretation of this information pertaining to the above article.