obligations under WHS laws

Do you know your obligations under WHS laws?

A recent QLD court report highlighted the consequences faced when a person fails to comply with their obligations under WHS laws.

“On March 29, 2023, the Brisbane Magistrates Court sentenced a Work Health and Safety Manager for breaching section 32 of the WHS Act having failed to comply with her primary duty under section 28 (b) of the Act that stipulates ‘While at work, a worker must … take reasonable care that his or her acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons”.

WHS is a crucial aspect of every workplace in Australia. To ensure the well-being of employees, the country has established comprehensive legislation that outlines the duties and responsibilities of various stakeholders. This blog aims to shed light on the different obligations under WHS laws in Australia, focusing on three key roles: Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), officer, and worker.

Obligations under WHS Laws – Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU)

The PCBU is the central figure responsible for ensuring a safe and healthy work environment. Their primary duty is to protect workers and other individuals from potential work-related risks.

The duties of a PCBU include:

a)      Providing a safe work environment: PCBUs must ensure the physical work environment is free from hazards, adequately maintained, and suitable for the tasks being performed. This involves implementing safety measures, such as installing safety equipment, providing training, and establishing emergency procedures.

b)      Consulting and involving workers: PCBUs are required to consult with workers, or their representatives, on matters relating to health and safety. This includes seeking input on identifying hazards, assessing risks, and implementing control measures. Effective communication between PCBUs and workers is vital for maintaining a safe workplace.

c)      Monitoring health and safety: PCBUs must regularly monitor the effectiveness of their health and safety measures, review risk assessments, and adjust control measures as necessary. They should also keep records of incidents, injuries, and near misses, and use this information to continuously improve safety practices.

Obligations under WHS Laws – Officer

Under WHS laws, an “officer” refers to an individual who occupies a position of authority within an organization, such as a director, partner, or senior executive. Officers have a pivotal role in ensuring that the PCBU meets their health and safety obligations.

The duties of an officer include:

a)      Due diligence: Officers must exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU complies with its health and safety duties and obligations. This involves actively engaging in WHS matters, staying informed about hazards and risks, and implementing appropriate control measures. 

b)      Setting the tone: Officers are responsible for promoting a positive safety culture within the organization. They should lead by example, communicate the importance of health and safety, and allocate sufficient resources to ensure the effective implementation of safety measures.

c)      Reviewing and reporting: Officers must review the PCBU’s health and safety performance regularly. They should be aware of incidents, hazards, and the effectiveness of control measures.

Obligations under WHS Laws – Worker

Workers, as individuals who carry out work for a PCBU, also have important responsibilities when it comes to work health and safety. While PCBUs and officers have overarching duties, workers must actively participate in ensuring their own safety and the safety of others in the workplace.

The obligations under WHS Laws of a worker include:

a)      Following instructions and procedures: Workers must follow the instructions and procedures provided by their PCBU or supervisor to ensure their own safety and the safety of others. This includes using personal protective equipment (PPE) when required and reporting any hazards or incidents promptly.

b)      Cooperating with the PCBU: Workers should cooperate with the PCBU and other workers to comply with health and safety requirements. This involves participating in safety training, reporting hazards, and suggesting improvements to work processes that enhance safety.

c)      Taking care of personal health and safety: Workers must take reasonable care for their own health and safety. This includes not engaging in activities that may endanger themselves or others and seeking guidance from their PCBU when unsure about the safe execution of a task.

In Summary:

Work health and safety is a shared responsibility among PCBUs, officers, and workers in Australia. Each role has distinct duties under WHS laws aimed at creating a safe and healthy work environment. By understanding and fulfilling these obligations, you can foster a culture of safety, reduce workplace incidents, and protect the well-being of everyone involved. Collaboration and active participation from all stakeholders is key to achieving these goals and ensuring a thriving and secure workforce.

If you are unsure if your business and the relevant stakeholders are meeting their obligations, contact us to arrange a free 30-minute Introductory call with our WHS Specialist team.

Learn more about safety services for small business and the top 5 reasons why you need a WHS specialist right now.

Phone 07 5655 4048. Servicing the Gold Coast, Northern Rivers and Regional areas.