This information is designed to help WA organisations and their associated workforces (including volunteers) understand the new Work Health and Safety laws.
Who is an officer under WHS?
The role and influence a person has in a business determines if they are an officer under the WHS Act. 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
- a minister of a state, territory or the Commonwealth
- each partner within a partnership. In this case, each partner would be considered a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) in their own right.
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 corporation.
Duty of officers
Officers of corporations and other organisations must manage corporate risks — including work health and safety risks.
Under the WHS Act, an officer of a PCBU must exercise due diligence to ensure the PCBU complies with its health and safety duties. This duty relates to the strategic, structural, policy and key resourcing decisions — that is, how the place is run.
Due diligence includes taking reasonable steps to:
- acquire and keep up to date knowledge on work health and safety matters
- understand the nature and operations of the work and associated hazards and risks
- ensure the PCBU has, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to work health and safety
- ensure the PCBU has appropriate processes to receive and consider information about work-related incidents, hazards and risks, and to respond in a timely manner
- ensure the PCBU has, and implements, processes for complying with their duties and obligations (for example, reports notifiable incidents, consults with workers, complies with notices, provides appropriate training and instruction and ensures HSRs receive training entitlements)
- verify the provision and use of the relevant resources and processes.
An officer may be charged with an offence under the WHS Act whether or not the PCBU has been convicted or found guilty of an offence under the Act.
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