What does Due Diligence mean in a WHS Context?
Weekly WHS Article 13th July 2023
You will notice in the WHS Act 2011 that Section 27 requires that, officers of a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) “must exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU complies” with their duties and obligations under the WHS Act.
But what does “due diligence” mean in a WHS context?
The term “due diligence”, has commercial, legal, financial, and tax applications. The use of this term in the WHS context is definitely different compared to the usual application of the term in other situations. In a WHS context due diligence belongs in the legal due diligence category.
The Merriam Webster dictionary legal definition of due diligence is;
“The care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to another person or their property.” Ref 1
The due diligence that officers must satisfy is detailed in section 27 of the WHS Act.
SafeWork NSW explains due diligence in the resource library on their website as follows;
“Section 27 of the Act accordingly places a duty to exercise due diligence on these individuals, who are described as officers, to require them to take reasonable steps that will support a health and safety culture, accountability, the allocation of resources and development of appropriate policies. These due diligence requirements enable an officer to ensure that the PCBU uses and applies appropriate resources, policies, procedures and health and safety practices in the conduct of a business or undertaking. If an officer fails to exercise due diligence requirements, they can be held personally liable.” https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/the-work-health-and-safety-duty-of-an-officer Ref 2
Section 27 of the WHS Act lists six broad requirements that an officer is legally obligated to perform in exercising their “due diligence.”
Examples are provided such as;
ensuring that the PCBU has a WHS management system in the first place
that the PCBU consults with workers on WHS matters
that the PCBU ensures training and instruction is provided to its staff for them to be able to do their jobs safely.
It is the officers of the PCBU who must ensure the PCBU is fulfilling every one of the requirements listed in Section 27. They have a duty to exercise “due diligence.”
Reference 1. “Due diligence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/due%20diligence. Accessed 10 Jul. 2023. 2. Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this licence, visit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
13th July 2023
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