Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) an officer is a person who makes, or participates in making, decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part, of a business or undertaking of the Commonwealth.
Who has the duties of an officer?
The representative work of each parliamentarian (including work done on their behalf) is an undertaking of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the WHS Act. In practice, this means that each parliamentarian will have the duties of an officer in respect of the undertaking that is their work.
In some limited cases, MOP(S) Act employees may also have the duties of an officer. A WHS Officer, such as a Site Officer, First Aid Officer or Emergency Officer is unlikely to be an Officer for the purposes of the WHS Act, unless they participate in making decisions within their office in another capacity (for example, as a Chief of Staff).
What are the duties of an officer?
Officers have a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure that the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) complies with their duties and obligations under the WHS Act. In exercising due diligence, an officer must take reasonable steps to:
- acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of work health and safety matters
- gain an understanding of the hazards and risks associated with the nature of the operations
- ensure that the business or undertaking has available appropriate resources and processes, and uses them to identify hazards and eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety arising from those hazards in the conduct of the business or undertaking
- ensure that the business or undertaking has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information about incidents, hazards and risks and responding in a timely way
- ensure that the business or undertaking implements processes for complying with its duties and obligations.