- The primary duty of care for health and safety of workers and others is now imposed on any persons conducting a business or undertaking…
This moves away from the traditional emphasis on the employment relationship, to provide greater protection for all persons involved in, or affected by, work activity. Whether the primary duty exists or not in any situation is a test of “reasonable practicality”.
- Officers now have a positive duty to exercise due diligence
Officers of an entity conducting a business or undertaking must exercise ‘due diligence’ to ensure that the business or undertaking complies with the health and safety duties. The definition of ‘officer’ includes directors, company secretaries, and even key managers.It casts a positive duty on officers to be proactive, and continuously ensure that the business or undertaking complies with the relevant duties and obligations under the Model Act.The scope of the officers’ duty is directly related to the influential nature of their position. A high standard requires persistent examination and care to ensure that the resources and systems of the business or undertaking are adequate to comply with the duty of care required under the Model Act. Where the officer relies on the expertise of a manager or other person, that expertise must be verified and the reliance must be reasonable.
- Workers must exercise reasonable care
The Model Act requires all workers to take “reasonable care” for their own health and safety and that of others, and to co-operate with any reasonable action taken by the person conducting the business or undertaking in complying with the Model Act. Note that the definition of “worker” is extremely broad, and includes employees, contractors or subcontractors, an employee of a contractor or subcontractor, an outworker, an apprentice or trainee, or a volunteer.
- Organisations must consult with workers
A person conducting a business or undertaking must consult with all workers about matters affecting their health and safety. This means that consultation will need to be broader than with existing employees, to cover all workers in the workplace.
- Fines and Penalties are very significant indeed
The Model Act provides for a number of levels of penalties, with the maximum being $3 million for a corporation, and $600,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment for an officer for a category 1 offence.