Health and Safety Chat

Officers and Workers

steve rhodes image

Steve Schroder

4th October 2016

On the 4th of April 2016, the biggest changes to health and safety legislation since the 1990’s came into effect.

The new legislation saw a change from managing the hazards in a business to a more holistic approach of managing risk, and also saw the introduction of new definitions regarding those responsible for managing the risks. The Act has introduced several new terms into the health and safety world. Two of these terms are ‘Officer’ and ‘Worker’.

So what is an Officer?

An Officer is someone in the business who holds a senior leadership position and has the ability in his or her role to influence the management of the PCBU in a significant way. Organisations can and may have more than one Officer, especially if they are a large business.

WorkSafe NZ defines an Officer as:

  • Company directors (even if they do not have ‘director’ in their title)
  • Any partner in a partnership (other than a limited partnership)
  • Any general partner in a limited partnership
  • Any person who holds a position comparable to a director in a body corporate or an unincorporated body
  • Any person who exercises significant influence over the management of the business or undertaking (e.g. the Chief Executive).

Officers have a ‘duty of care’ (due diligence) to check that the business has all of the correct and relevant policies and procedures in place to ensure that the Workers are safe. And, that the Workers of the business are following all the health and safety policies and procedures. However, remember that Officers do not hold the primary duty of care, this still resides with the PCBU.

Officers have this duty because they have significant influence on factors that may affect the health and safety of Workers. People in senior leadership positions will always hold an important role in the leadership of health and safety, and health and safety culture, throughout a business.

Officers’ Duties

Officers have a duty (due diligence) to ensure the Workers of the business are following all health and safety policies and procedures’.

So what does this mean? Officers’ are required to ensure that the PCBU complies with its duties in regards to health and safety. They must exercise the ‘care, diligence and skill a reasonable Officer would exercise in the same circumstances’, this includes duties like:

  • Ensuring that the PCBU has, and implements, processes for complying with any duty or obligation of the PCBU under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
  • Gaining a full understanding of the operations of the PCBU and understanding the hazards
    and risks associated with those operations
  • Making available any resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety from operations carried out
  • Ensuring that health and safety policies are up-to-date and relevant
  • Ensuring that all policies and procedures are being followed by performing checks to confirm this (don’t just assume they are!)
  • Acquiring, and keeping up-to-date, knowledge of work health and safety matters
  • Ensuring that the PCBU has an appropriate process or resource for collating and considering information regarding any near misses, incidents, hazards and risks. Further they must ensure that any concerns are responded to in a timely manner

The above must take into account matters such as the nature of the business or undertaking, and the Officer’s position and the nature of their responsibilities.

So what is a Worker?

Workers include anyone that is on the worksite, such as employees, management, contractors, volunteers, etc. Basically, anyone at the worksite who is not defined as the PCBU or an Officer is defined as a Worker.

Worker Responsibilities

A Worker must ensure that they are following all reasonable health and safety policies, procedures and instructions. They also have the responsibility to take reasonable care and ensure that they do not put themselves or others at risk as a result of their actions.