Directors and Officers – what do we do now?

In addition to the PCBU having duties there are also other parties who must be responsible under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.  At this time we look at the top of the business, the Directors and Officers – those parties who are responsible for and who can make change within the business.

Directors and Officers – due diligence

The Act brings a significant change to the specific duty placed on Directors and Offices, those holding governance, or senior management, roles. They now assume a due diligence duty. That due diligence duty is imposed on “Officers” of the PCBU, who are defined as:

  • directors of companies;
  • partners in a partnership;
  • any general partner in a limited partnership;
  • any person in a position comparable with that of a director in a body corporate or unincorporated body; or
  • any other person occupying a position in a PCBU that allows the person to exercise significant influence over the management of the business (i.e. a chief executive).

The duty of due diligence imposed on Officers is onerous, and requires them to:

  • acquire, and keep up-to-date, knowledge of work health and safety matters;
  • gain an understanding of the risks and hazards associated to the business;
  • ensure the PCBU has and uses appropriate resources to eliminate and minimise risks;
  • ensure that the PCBU has appropriate resources and processes to respond to information regarding incidents and hazards in a timely manner; and
  • ensure that the PCBU has and implements processes for complying with duties under the Act.

While the prior legislation had the ability to hold a director liable for health and safety breaches, in practice that was only applied where they were closely involved with operational decisions made by the business. This has meant that directors of large entities, who may have little or no practical involvement in a business, have avoided scrutiny. The “due diligence” obligation changes this and now those in these positions need to be more aware of what is done regarding the health and safety within their businesses now more than ever.  Take an interest in the health and safety of your business operations on a day to day basis and you are on your way to being a safe Director and Officer.

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