Key WHS terms and definitions

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When do the new WHS laws come into effect?

WA’s Work Health and Safety legislation is not expected to come into force until January 2022. This means that the current occupational, mines safety and petroleum safety legislation still applies.

Download an overview to the new WHS laws

The Overview of Western Australia’s Work Health and Safety Act 2020 provides information on the new WHS laws that come into effect in 2022.

Download the overview

This information is designed to help WA organisations and their associated workforces (including volunteers) prepare for the new Work Health and Safety laws. More information will be added as it becomes available.

Duty holder

Refers to any person who owes a work health and safety duty under the WHS Act including a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), designer, manufacturer, importer, supplier, installer of products or plant used at work (upstream duty holders), an officer and workers. More than one person can concurrently have the same duty, in which case the duty is shared. Duties cannot be transferred. 

Health and safety committee (HSC) 

A group established under the WHS Act that facilitates cooperation between a PCBU and workers to provide a safe place of work. The committee must have at least 50 per cent of members who have not been nominated by the PCBU — that is, workers or HSRs. 

Health and safety representative (HSR) 

A worker who has been elected by a work group under the WHS Act to represent them on health and safety issues. 

Officer 

An officer within the meaning of section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), other than each partner within a partnership. Broadly, an officer is a person who makes, or participates in making, decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part, of the organisation’s activities. This does not include an elected member of a municipal council acting in that capacity or a minister of a state, territory or the Commonwealth. 

An officer can also be an officer of the Crown or a public corporation if they are a person who makes, or participates in making, decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part, of the business or undertaking of the Crown or public authority. 

Each partner within a partnership is not an officer but a PCBU in their own right. 

Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) 

A person conducting a business or undertaking alone or with others, whether or not for profit or gain. A PCBU can be a sole trader (for example, a self-employed person), each partner within a partnership, company, unincorporated association or government department of public corporation (including a municipal council). 

Plant 

Includes any machinery, equipment, appliance, container, implement or tool, and any component or anything fitted or connected to these things. 

Reasonably practicable 

A guiding principle of the WHS Act is that all people are given the highest level of health and safety protection from hazards arising from work, so far as is reasonably practicable.

The term ‘reasonably practicable’ means what could reasonably be done at a particular time to ensure health and safety measures are in place. 

Structure 

Anything that is constructed, whether fixed or moveable, temporary or permanent and includes buildings, masts, towers, framework, pipelines, transport infrastructure and underground works (shafts or tunnels). Includes any component or part of a structure.

Substance 

Any natural or artificial substance in the form of a solid, liquid, gas or vapour. 

Supply 

Supply and re-supply of a thing provided by way of sale, exchange, lease, hire or hire-purchase arrangement, whether as principal or agent. 

Volunteer 

A person who acts on a voluntary basis regardless of whether they receive out of pocket expenses. 

Volunteer association 

A group of volunteers working together for one or more community purposes—whether registered or not—that does not employ anyone to carry out work for the association.

Worker 

Any person who carries out work for a PCBU, including work as an employee, contractor, subcontractor, self-employed person, outworker, apprentice or trainee, work experience student, employee of a labour hire company placed with a ‘host employer’ and volunteers. 

Work group 

A group of workers represented by an HSR who in many cases share similar work conditions (for example, all the electricians in a factory, all people on night shift, all people who work in the loading bay of a retail storage facility).

Workplace 

Any place where a worker goes or is likely to be while work is carried out for a business or undertaking. This may include offices, factories, shops, construction sites, vehicles, ships, aircraft or other mobile structures on land or water such as offshore units and platforms (that are not already covered under the Commonwealth’s offshore WHS laws).

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