Duty of Care & Achieving WHS Compliance: One Follows the Other

The human trait of caring for others is inherent in our legal system. It is also the foundation of the WHS Act and WHS Regulations and, together with taking care for your own safety, forms the basis of everyone’s WHS duty of care.

So compliance with WHS legislation in your workplace can be achieved or defeated depending upon whether everyone fulfills their duty of care.

This article is focussed on how the duty of care, as required by the WHS Act, applies to everyone in your workplace and what you can do about it to help ensure the requirements in the WHS Act and Regulations are complied with.

How Much Care is Needed to Achieve Compliance?

The short incomplete answer is that it depends upon what position a person has in the workplace and what authority they have been given by the PCBU (person conducting the business or undertaking – the word person includes company or any other legally recognised body of people).

A PCBU has the primary duty of care in the workplace and that care can be described as; do everything reasonably practicable to ensure the heath and safety of everyone in the workplace or other persons who might be put at risk by workplace activities (see section 19 of the WHS Act).

An Officer of the PCBU (includes Directors of the company, some senior managers and others) has a duty that can be described as;

must exercise due diligence to ensure the PCBU complies with every WHS duty or obligation they have. This due diligence includes taking reasonable steps in 5 specific areas of the business or undertaking (see section 27 WHS Act).

Workers in a workplace (includes employees, contractors, subcontractors etc see section 6 WHS Act) must take reasonable care for their own safety and the safety of others (but see section 28 WHS Act for more).

There is also a category of persons called Other Persons and their duty of care is almost the same as Workers duty of care.

You can see the relationship and interaction of duty of care between the above 4 categories in the infographic on our website at this link

How to Achieve WHS Compliance

This article is not long enough to cover the specific meanings of reasonably practicable, due diligence, and reasonable care or the implications of the different levels of care required by the WHS Act of the 4 categories of persons above. However, those meanings should be understood by everyone in the workplace including what each duty holder is required to do.

This subject is covered in many of Courtenell’s WHS courses.

In particular each person in the workplace must know, understand and carry out those actions that they are authorised and required to do in their workplace to satisfy their duty of care.

Everyone in the workplace is on the same team and ideally team members should know what the other team members are doing or supposed to be doing about health and safety.

Click on the links below to download the course outlines:

WHS Risk Management for Supervisors and Managers

WHS Risk Assessment

Download • 257KB

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