What is due diligence?
The Work Health and Safety Act requires that the officers, for instance Directors, exercise due diligence to ensure that the organisation complies with its duties or obligations under the Act. This includes:
- Acquiring and keeping up to date knowledge of health and safety matters;
- Understanding the nature of operations and the inherent hazards and risks;
- Ensuring adequate resources and processes are available and used;
- Ensuring processes are in place to become aware of and action in a timely way, information regarding incidents, hazards and risks; and
- Ensuring that internal procedures are in place to comply with legislative and regulatory requirements.
These obligations place the responsibility of overall compliance clearly on the heads of these officers and are what prosecutors rely on to prove liability under the Act. Not meeting these requirements can result in hefty fines (up to $3,000,000) for organisations and for individuals this could mean losing your job, house and in some cases facing jail time of up to 5 years. To prevent this from occurring it is vital to have effective health and safety leaders within your organisation, whether they are internal or external resources.
Demonstrating due diligence?
Appointing a safety advisor is a cost effective way for officers to demonstrate due diligence. There are a few options you can consider when deciding how to fill a safety advisor appointment. These include employing a trained and experienced safety advisor. Although this may not be practical for smaller operations the benefit is that you have a dedicated resource within your organisation.
Up-skilling an existing worker is another option to fill the safety advisor role. Current workers have the advantage of already knowing the organisation and can be suitable where the operations are not large enough to have a dedicated individual in place. The pit-fall of this option is safety can be placed second, or third, to the time and outcome pressures of existing responsibilities. There is also the cost of providing a worker with VET accredited training such as a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety and it would be wise within a small organisation for a Director to take on this role.
Utilising external consultants can also be an effective short or long term solution. Consultants can bring to the table specific and current expertise and knowledge as well as experience in how other organisations meet their obligations. The benefits of using a consultant is most realised when used to:
- Bring to the table expertise for instance, thorough understanding of legislative compliance requirements to provide guidance and advice as you need it;
- Draw from industry experience to tailor solutions which meet your specific needs;
- Supplement or fill gaps in skills and expertise not available within the organisation; and
- Provide an impartial focus or independent opinion, for instance when completing investigations.
Masula Compliance has been supporting businesses in this way for over 20 years. Whether you just want to know if you are on the right track or you need someone to take your compliance in hand we have a support package which is right for you.