The Work Health & Safey Act 2011 imposes a number of important and exhaustive non-transferrable duties on Officers and Managers, Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), Workers and Other Persons at the workplace.
These duties include:
- PCBUs’ primary duty to ensure the health and safety of workers,
- Officers’ duty to exercise due diligence to ensure that PCBUs comply with their duties and obligations,
- Workers’ duties to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, the heath and safety of other persons, and to comply with reasonable instructions given by a PCBU, and
- Other Persons’, at a workplace, duty take reasonable care for their own health and safety, the health and safety of other persons, and to comply with reasonable instructions given by a PCBU.
Importantly, a person may have more than one duty and more than one person can have the same duty.
If more than one person has a duty in relation to the same matter, each of those persons has a duty to consult and must, as far as is reasonably practicable, consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other persons who share the duty.
Understanding and fulfilling these duties is vitally important, not only for protecting workers and other persons against harm to their health, safety or welfare, but because a failure to comply with a duty will constitute an offence under the Act.
Depending on the severity of the failure, offences are categorised as either category 1, 2 of 3 offence; with category 1 offences relating to circumstances where a person has demonstrated gross negligence or recklessness and carrying severe penalties including fines of up to $761,750 and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years and fines of up to $ 3,809,300 for companies.
SafeWork NSW has broad powers available for enforcing compliance with Work Health and Safety Laws. SafeWork Investigators have the power to enter any place of work, conduct interviews and make inquiries, take photographs and other recordings, take samples, examine and copy documents, and secure or seize evidence.
Where WHS Laws have been breached SafeWork may give a precaution, negotiate and accept an enforceable undertaking, or carry out legal prosecutions against individuals, employers or businesses responsible for the breach through the Courts.