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Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

The new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 came into force on 4 April 2016 and replaced the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. The purpose of this Act is to provide a balanced framework to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces. It shifts the focus from hazard spotting to managing critical risks – actions that reduce workplace harm rather than trivial hazards.

Who is responsible for health and safety?

The Act’s key emphasis is on everyone in the workplace being responsible for health and safety:

  • The business itself – the business (or PCBU) has the primary duty to ensure the health and safety of workers and others affected by the work it does. The business also has a duty to engage workers in health and safety matters and implement effective participation practices to allow workers to contribute to health and safety on an ongoing basis.
  • Officers – includes directors and other senior people who make decisions that significantly affect a business. Officers have a duty of due diligence to ensure their business complies with its health and safety obligations.
  • Workers – includes employees, contractors and subcontractors who must take reasonable care to ensure the health and safety of themselves and others, and to comply with the reasonable instructions and policies of the business.
  • Others – Visitors and customer on-site have responsibilities to keep themselves safe and not cause others harm.

Due diligence

Due diligence means taking reasonable steps:

  • To acquire, and keep up to date, knowledge of work H&S matters
  • To gain an understanding of the nature of the business and the hazards and risk associated with its operation
  • To ensure the business has appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks
  • To ensure the business has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazards and risks
  • To ensure the business has processes for ensuring compliance with the legal requirements of the HSW Act.

General Risk and Workplace Management Regulations 2016

These regulations set out general requirements relating to managing risk – firstly that a PCBU must identify hazards that could give rise to reasonably foreseeable risks to health and safety – and introduce a hierarchy of controls:

  • Where reasonably practicable, a PCBU must eliminate risks to health and safety (e.g. get rid of unwanted chemicals)
  • Where this is not reasonably practicable, a PCBU must minimise risks to health and safety by implementing one of the following actions
  • Substituting the hazard with something that results in less risk (eg using a less hazardous product) Isolating the hazard to prevent any person coming into contact with it (eg locking the agrichemical store)
  • Implementing engineering controls (eg enclosed tractor cabs)
  • If a risk remains, the PCBU must minimise the remaining risk, as far as is reasonably practicable, by implementing administrative controls (eg limit exposure time)
  • If a risk remains, the PCBU must minimise remaining risk by ensuring the provision and use of appropriate PPE, including providing training in its use and maintenance.
  • There is a requirement to monitor the implementation of controls and to review their effectiveness, particularly when risks change.

A PCBU has a number of additional duties:

  • prepare, maintain and implement a written emergency plan
  • keep records of appropriate training, near-hit and injury events
  • maintain a suitable workplace first aid kit

Reasonably practicable means that which is reasonably able to be done taking into account all relevant matters, including:

  • the likelihood of the hazard of risk occurring
  • the degree of harm that might result
  • how much is known about the risk
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk
  • the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.


The full version of this Act and associated Regulations are available at online.