The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires businesses to be proactive to ensure that workers and other persons in the workplace are kept safe. Some of the important changes are:
- The Act introduces the concept of “PCBU” or “person conducting a business or undertaking”. A PCBU can be a company or an individual who is a sole trader but does not include someone who is solely an employee.
- A PCBU has various obligations to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers, which includes employees and contractors who are under the direction or influence of the PCBU. The PCBU must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that other persons such as visitors are not put at risk from work that is carried out by the business.
- The definition of workplace is broad and includes places where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work and includes cars, trucks and boats.
- Directors and other persons such as chief executives who exercise significant influence over the management of the business must exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU complies with its duties. Workers must also take reasonable care for their own health and safety and also that they do not adversely affect the health and safety of others.
- Due diligence includes taking reasonable steps to keep up to date with health and safety matters, ensuring that the PCBU has processes in place to minimise or eliminate risks and that those processes are actually implemented.
- Penalties for offences have substantially increased so that reckless breaches could result in an individual receiving up to 5 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $600,000 and a company receiving a fine of up to $3 million.