09 Feb Directors’ duties under WHS laws
A PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) has a duty under WHS laws to eliminate risks to health and safety of workers and other persons so far as is reasonably practicable. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks, they must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. This means you must do all that you reasonably can to manage risks occurring in the workplace (see guide: How to determine what is reasonably practicable to meet a health and safety duty).
• A ‘worker’ under WHS laws is anyone who carries out work in any capacity for your business, including employees, contractors, subcontractors, outworkers, apprentices, trainees, work experience students and volunteers who carry out work.
• A ‘workplace’ under WHS laws means a place where work is carried out for your business and includes any place where a worker goes for work, for example, a client’s home. This also includes places where there is no work being carried out at a particular time; for example, a department store does not cease to be a workplace when it is closed overnight.
Under WHS laws you must also, so far as is reasonably practicable:
• provide and maintain a work environment that is without risk to the health and safety of workers
• provide adequate and accessible facilities for the welfare of workers to carry out their work
• give workers the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to do their job safely and without risks to health, and
• consult with health and safety representatives (HSRs) and workers about health and safety issues that are likely to be, directly affecting them.
You must also consult, co-operate and co-ordinate with other businesses you work with, or share premises with, about how they will discharge their WHS duties when interacting with your workers. To do this, you should exchange information and work together in a cooperative and co-ordinated way, so risks are eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.
• talk to other businesses you interact with about measures to prevent sexual harassment, e.g. suppliers, commercial landlords, the onsite food vendors or contractors
• speak to other businesses that share your worksite or premises about how to manage shared areas such as bathroom and kitchen facilities to ensure these areas are safe for workers, and
• talk to other businesses that share your worksite or premises about what you will do if a worker, e.g. is being sexually harassed at the worksite or premises.
Officers, such as company directors, must exercise due diligence to ensure the business or undertaking complies with the WHS Act and Regulations. This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure the business or undertaking has and uses appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to people.
Workers also have duties under WHS laws. Workers must take reasonable care of their own health and safety while at work, and the health and safety of others who may be affected by what they do or do not do. While at work, workers must also comply with any reasonable instructions, policies and procedure given by the PCBU, including policies and procedures to prevent and respond to sexual harassment.
You must do whatever you can to eliminate or minimise the health and safety risks in the workplace so far as is reasonably practicable. This process is known as risk management and involves:
• identifying the hazards
• assessing the associated risks
• implementing control measures to eliminate or minimise risks, and
• regularly reviewing control measures to ensure they remain effective.
You must do these things in consultation with your workers and any HSRs if you have them.
More information about the risk management process can be found in the Code of Practice: How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks and the Code of Practice: Work Health and Safety Consultation, Co-operation and Co-ordination.
Source material: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/