Leaders legally responsible for WHS under new laws

Key decision makers must shoulder more of the responsibility for managing work health and safety risks under Australia’s Model Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) or risk being found personally liable.

Everyone has a role to play in creating a safe and healthy workplace, but under the new WHS Act certain individuals are held to a higher standard. Those in senior positions who make management decisions and have a high level of influence over how an organisation or PCBU operates must take personal responsibility for managing work health and safety (WHS) risks.

This is referred to in the WHS Act as due diligence and those responsible are known as Officers. PCBU, or Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking, is the term used in the WHS Act to describe an individual or organisation operating some kind of business or undertaking. In a Church environment a PCBU could be a diocese, a school, a religious order, or a parish sporting club, just to name just a few.

An Officer in a Church PCBU might be the archbishop, a congregational leader, board member, company director, parish priest, school principal, even the head of a parish council. They may be employed by the PCBU or work in a voluntary capacity.

To exercise due diligence an Officer must keep up-to-date with WHS matters and have a detailed understanding of the hazards and risks associated with business operations. An Officer must ensure the resources and systems in place to manage and respond to risk are adequate, timely and comply with the law. Those who fail to comply may be found personally liable and face consequences including court proceedings, fines, criminal prosecution and even jail in very serious circumstances.

“Identifying the Officers in your PCBU and making sure they are aware of their duties and responsibilities is essential to ensure compliance with the WHS Act,” says CCI Risk Consultant, Graham Porter “Since the WHS Act came into effect in 2012, we have been working with clients to develop products and services able to support them and ensure compliance. This includes the Due Diligence for Officers E-Learning course, Due Diligence workshop and Due Diligence Health Check.”

Clients can find out more about these products and services on this website or by calling the risksupport helpdesk on 1300 660 827 and speaking to one of our Risk Consultants.

“The approach taken by the work health and safety regulators Australia wide emphasises the significant role leaders play in maintaining a safe and healthy working environment,” says Graham. “More than just another set of regulations to comply with, these obligations are an opportunity for Officers to take a proactive approach and make a genuine commitment to health and safety.”

For more information about the WHS Act visit your state or territory work health and safety authority or Safe Work Australia www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au

Posted: 14 August 2014

Topic: Due Diligence

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