Cert IV OHS - WHS Responsibilities and Legislative Requirements
Cert IV OHS
In the Certificate IV in OHS, you’ll learn
about WHS RESPONSIBILITIES AND
REQUIREMENTS AS SPECIFIED IN
General Duty of Care
The Model Work Health and Safety legislation sets out
duties of care on a wide number of workplace parties.
The parties include:
- Persons conducting a business or undertaking;
- Persons in control of fixtures, fittings or plant at a
- Designers of plant, substances or structures;
- Manufacturers of plant, substances or structures;
- Suppliers of plant, substances or structures;
- Installers of plant, substances or structures;
- Workers; and
- Others persons at the workplace.
Duties – Persons Conducting a Business or
The phrase ‘business or undertaking’ is intended to be read
broadly and covers businesses or undertakings conducted
by persons including PCBUs, principal contractors, head
contractors, franchisors and the Crown.
A PCBU has a primary duty of care requiring them to, so far
as is reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of
workers and others who may be affected by the carrying
out of work.
BSBOHS408A ASSIST WITH COMPLIANCE WITH OHS
LAWS AND OTHER RELEVANT LAWS
Section 19 of the WHS Bill sets out the primary duty of care
- ensuring so far as is reasonably practicable the health and
safety of workers; and
- ensuring so far as is reasonably practicable the health and
safety of others affected by the business or undertaking
The duty includes providing:
a) safe working environment;
b) safe plant and structures;
c) safe systems of work;
d) safe use, handling and storage of plant
e) adequate facilities;
f) adequate information instruction and
g) monitoring of the workplace.
A PCBU has a duty of care to others who may be affected
by the business or undertaking, for example, if a building
site has loads being lifted over a footpath, there is a duty
of care to pedestrians. A mechanical workshop may have
a sign saying ‘no visitors past the front office’ because of
the duty of care to visitors.
A PCBU is also required to:
- facilitate the election of health and safety representatives;
- assist them in their functions where called for under the
- set up and facilitate a health and safety committee where
the conditions set out in the legislation have been met;
- establish issue resolution procedures.
Duties – Persons in Control
There may also be duties imposed on those who have control
of workplaces. A high-rise building may hold many businesses.
The building manager has control over certain aspects of these
workplaces such as lighting, sanitation, air-conditioning and
access and egress, e.g. the lifts and staircases.
Duties – Officers
Under the WHS Act the duties on Officers are positive and
proactive duties. Under pre-harmonisation legislation personal
liability of officers is that officers will be attributed personal
liability for breaches of the company of its WHS obligations.
The trigger for that liability ranges from deemed liability
(in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania), to liability for failing
to take reasonable care to prevent the contravention (in
Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territory and shortly
in the ACT) and liability only in the event that the offence
was committed with the consent, connivance or is
attributable to any neglect on the part of the officer (in
Despite the range of liabilities, all three position have one
thing in common, the officer will be personally liable only if
their company commits an offence.
The WHS Act defines an officer as:
(a) a director or secretary of the corporation; or
(b) a person:
who makes, or participates in making, decisions that
affect the whole, or a substantial part, of the business of
the corporation; or
who has the capacity to affect significantly the
corporation’s financial standing; or
in accordance with whose instructions or wishes the
directors of the corporation are accustomed to act.
And defines the duties of an Officer as exercising
due diligence which includes:
acquiring and keep up to date knowledge of WHS matters
in relation to the undertaking;
understanding the operations and the associated risks
ensuring appropriate resources, including advice, and
processes to identify risks and then minimise or eliminate
ensuring that there are processes for receiving and
considering information about risks, hazards and incidents
and responding in a timely manner; and
to ensure that there are processes and resources for
complying with the duties and obligations under the Act.
Duties – Workers
A ‘worker’ is a person who carries out work in any capacity
for a PCBU, including work in any of the capacities listed in
the provision. The examples of workers in the provision are
illustrative only and are not intended to be exhaustive. That
means that there will be other kinds of workers that are not
specifically listed in this clause (e.g. students on clinical
placement and bailee taxi drivers).
The term ‘work’ is not defined but is intended to
include work, for example, that is carried out:
1. under a contract of employment, contract of
apprenticeship or contract for services;
2. in a leadership role in a religious institution, as part of
the duties of a religious vocation or in any other capacity for
the purposes of a religious institution;
3. as an officer of a body corporate, member of the
committee of management of an unincorporated body or
association or member of a partnership; and
4. as practical training as part of a course of education or
Whether a person is a worker is to be decided on the facts
of the case. It is important to note that the WHS Act places
obligations on PCBU’s for the safety of contractors. This
relationship can be complex and the Act and guidance
material should also be examined to find out just who is
responsible for WHS in principal-contractor relationships.
Workers have duties to:
- take reasonable care for their own safety;
- take reasonable care for the safety of others;
- comply with the reasonable instructions of a PCBU; and
- cooperate with the PCBU’s reasonable policies or
procedures for health and safety.
The worker’s duty does not stand alone. It complements
the PCBU’s duty, and the worker needs to receive the
appropriate information, instruction, training and
supervision to properly fulfil his or her duty. Given this, it is
the worker’s duty to act in good faith.
Extent of the worker’s duty of care
The duty applies to all levels from production worker or
clerical worker to senior executive or manager. The worker’s
duty to avoid causing harm to others may place greater
responsibilities on managers and supervisors than on other
staff. For example, a supervisor who directs that a particular
task is done in a particular way clearly has responsibilities
to the workers who are directly involved in performing the
task, and to other workers and members of the public who
may be affected by the way in which the task is done.
To meet the obligation placed on workers they
Follow the PCBU’s instructions provided for
Use personal protective clothing and equipment that
has been provided by the PCBU. This duty is dependent
upon the PCBU providing proper instruction in its care, use
Take good care of equipment provided in the interests of
health and safety. In particular, the worker must not misuse or
damage the equipment. It would be an offence to deliberately
render fire-fighting equipment inoperative or to remove
guards from dangerous machinery for no good reason. This
point applies when PCBU’s have provided the necessary
information, instruction and training in health and safety
matters, and a worker’s actions to misuse or damage are
Report hazards that the worker cannot correct. The
requirement is to report to the PCBU. However, there could
be a system in the workplace where workers report to their
immediate supervisor or area manager. Where that person is
also unable to correct the hazard, it should be reported to a
more senior management person.
Any procedure that sets up a chain of command or
delegates the task of receiving hazard reports should
ensure there is prompt action to fix the problem or refer it
on to someone who can fix it.
The legal responsibility to ensure that workers are not
exposed to hazards rests with PCBU’s. In addition,
supervisors who do not follow an agreed reporting
procedure could be affecting the safety and health of other
people through an omission at work, and may be failing to
comply with their duties as workers.
Report injury or harm to health that is connected with
the work activity. This applies to physical injuries and to the
early symptoms of illness or disease that may be connected
with work. For this reporting to occur, workers should have
received information from the PCBU about the early
symptoms of which they need to be aware.
For example, keyboard operators should be aware of the
symptoms of occupational overuse injuries.
Cooperate with the PCBU to allow the PCBU to carry out
its duties under the Act. This complements the PCBU’s duty
and means that workers should actively work with PCBU’s
with the common aim of improving health and safety at the
workplace. This duty means that workers must follow
directions given by the PCBU in the interests of health and
Duties – Others
Others include people who may have reason to be at the
workplace but are not a worker. The duties of others mirror
the duties of workers in that they must take care of
themselves, cooperate with the PCBU and not do anything to
endanger the health and safety of others.
The WHS laws set out the duties and functions of different
people in a workplace or those who service that workplace.
When considering the application of legislation and specific
responsibilities you will need to establish:
1. What role does the person have in the workplace e.g.
2. What duties apply under the legislation e.g. reasonable
care, due diligence?
3. Are there any additional duties placed on the person under
the regulations or codes of practice?
4. Have they met those obligations and what evidence there
is of that e.g. using PPE as instructed, receiving reports about
health and safety performance and acting on them?
LMIT delivers the Certificate IV in OHS and
the Diploma in Occupational Health &
Safety Completely Online in Sydney, Melbourne,
Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and
Canberra. The Advanced Diploma in OHS is also
available via RPL only.