Health and Safety Chat

Due diligence and what does this mean for me?

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Steve Schroder

01 November 2016

There are so many terms in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, how do you navigate your way through them? In this blog we will look at one term and try to dismantle it for you so you can understand what it means.

Due diligence – what is it, and what do you have to do to “discharge it”?

Applied to occupational health and safety, due diligence means that employers shall take all reasonable precautions, under the particular circumstances, to prevent injuries or accidents in the workplace. But what does this really mean?

Due diligence is something that specifically refers to Officers from a business, who have a duty to ensure that the business they are working in is informed and understands the risks and hazards within the business and that the business is doing everything it can to manage the risks and hazards within the business. This is not to be confused with the primary duties of care that falls to the PCBU.

What are your responsibilities?

This is a difficult question to answer as this will very much depend on what it is your business does, as well as your role within the business.

However, as a general rule the more senior you are, the greater your required due diligence. Also it is important to remember is that you do not need to be directly involved in the business to be considered an Officer of that business, for example, a board member on the board of directors is considered to be an Officer of a business, even if all they do is sit on the board and have nothing to do with the day to day running of that business. That means that even directors need to take steps to ensure that the business is complying with the new act.

“But we have a health and safety system!” I hear the shouts in the background!

Having a health and safety system is one of the steps to ensure that your company has met its obligations of “primary duty of care” under the new act, however, the running of this system falls to the Officers. If you have a system then you need to ensure that it is relevant to your business, you understand that system, and it is working! This is the same for small and large businesses, however it is widely acknowledged that Officers in smaller businesses have a more hands on role in running their health and safety systems.

How do we know if the system works and how do we check this?

As an Officer it falls to you to ensure that the safety systems within your business are functioning. This means that you need to check and verify this. This can be done in a number of ways, but one of the most effective ways is to encourage communication and feedback from your Workers. Generally, if engaged positively, they will be able to tell you if it works. Other ways are to ensure that you have active and competent supervision, with engagement from that supervision and fully investigate any incidents and near misses that might happen. This means asking the ‘why’ a lot.

Remember, if you are an Officer and you take a passive approach to health and safety in general, you will not be taking what is considered to be “all practicable steps” to ensure compliance to health and safety.

So how do you discharge your due diligence?

Interestingly it is actually not that hard and most of us are already doing it in some form or another. The key is being able to prove that you have done it! Ultimately you need to be able to prove that:

  • You have up to date, relevant knowledge of workplace health and safety (the act and any regulations as they pertain to your business). You don’t need to know it word for word!
  • You must understand what you do! That is, understand what, how, when and why your business does something, including its operations and health and safety risks.
  • Ensure that the business has all necessary resources for staff to undertake the tasks safely, and processes and procedures in place to manage the risks involved. If the business does not have the resources available, then you MUST inform the business of this.
  • Make sure you have a way for people to communicate information about health and safety within the business, including a process for being able to respond to information about incidents, risks, and hazards.
  • Check and verify! Above all you must be checking and ensuring that all systems are functioning and all Workers are following these systems (this includes contractors, visitors, and volunteers).

Do you need a hand understanding your obligations or understanding the new legislation? Give us a call, and keep a look at for my next article where I will be discussing my to ten must do’s for businesses to help them with their health and safety compliance.