Health and Safety law update

One of the key challenges in the new health and safety legislation is the positive obligation to ‘consult,cooperate and coordinate’ with other businesses including contractors.

This piece of legislation in the HSWAct 2015 has been introduced primarily to reduce the risk to workers arising when several businesses work together. As the number of parties involved increases, so do the risks to the health and safety of workers – arising from miscommunication between parties, or complete lack of communication.

Read more about how this can go wrong here

It is clear to see that communication and cooperation between parties is essential to worker safety. The law is also clear and failure to do so may result in penalties.

Examples of multiple PCBU workplaces include:

  • The owner of a shopping mall like Westfield PCBU’s may include; the manager of the shopping centre, each of the businesses operating from shops in the shopping centre and those carrying out activities such as security, cleaning, rubbish collections and shopping trolley collection
  • A service station owner, the service station operator (if different from the owner), the mechanic (if running a separate business), the contractor carrying out the supply of gas cylinders to the public at the service station and the operator of an attached fast-food outlet
  • The principal contractor on a construction site, sub-contractors engaged by the principal contractor, sub-contractors engaged by the sub-contractors (including self-employed contractors), along with the client engaging the principal contractor and suppliers.

Consultation questions to consider when there are multiple PCBU’s on site are:

  • What activities will each PCBU will be performing?
  • How, when and where and what plant or substances may be used?
  • Which PCBU has control or influence over aspects of the work or the environment in which the work is being undertaken?
  • How will the activities of each PCBU affect the work environment?
  • How will the activities of each PCBU affect the choices of others?
  • How can we identify the workers that will be involved in the activity and who may be affected by the activity?
  • What procedures or arrangements may be in place for the consultation and representation of workers, and for issue resolution?
  • What information may be needed by another PCBU for health and safety purposes?
  • What each PCBU knows about the hazards and risks associated with their activity?
  • Whether the activities of others may introduce or increase hazards or risks?
  • What each PCBU will be providing for health and safety, particularly for controlling risks?
  • What further consultation or communication may be required to monitor health and safety or to identify any changes in the work or environment.?

Cooperation

In short you need to show good faith, communicating and cooperating with other PCBU’s in a timely manner. This means any action or inaction on your part should not compromise the health and safety of others working around you.

Coordination

You need to think about organising and planning activities to ensure that measures put in place work effectively to control the risk. The duty to coordinate is ongoing. Where work is not effectively coordinated, PCBUs should consult further to determine what should be changed.

Non-compliance

It is an offence under the HSWA for a PCBU to fail or refuse to comply with its duty to consult, cooperate or coordinate with other PCBUs.  An offending PCBU is at risk of a conviction and be liable to a fine not exceeding $20,000 in the case of an individual PCBU, or for any other PCBU a fine not exceeding $100,000.

It is imperative that you monitor and understand the safety standards of the companies you work with. Let HRtoolkit show you how.