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Duties of employers

Last updated February 2024

This chapter explains your duties as an employer under health and safety legislation, and how to comply with them.

What are your health and safety duties as an employer?

Under health and safety legislation in all jurisdictions, employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) have two main duties:

  • a primary duty of care to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that workers are not exposed to risks of work-related harm; and
  • a duty not to recklessly engage in conduct that puts a person in danger of serious injury or death.
Definition: Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU)

A PCBU is a person, corporation, partnership or association that conducts a business or undertaking. The business or undertaking can either be for profit or not-for-profit, and may be conducted by a single person or multiple people, e.g. in partnerships, each partner is a PCBU.
Important: In this chapter, the term ‘employer’ is used as the equivalent to a PCBU under the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act).

Other duties include:

  • monitoring workers’ health when they are conducting hazardous activities;
  • notifying the safety regulator when a notifiable incident occurs in the workplace;
  • consulting with workers on health and safety issues and, in some circumstances, appointing a health and safety representative and committee;
  • keeping appropriate health and safety records; and
  • cooperating with inspectors from the health and safety regulator.
Important: An individual may have several different roles in the workplace at the one time and, therefore, owe several different duties under health and safety legislation. For example, there are additional duties in the WHS Act that apply to employers that are designers, importers or manufacturers of plant, substances or structures. These employers have the added duty of ensuring that the plant, substance or structure is without risks to health and safety.
Caution: It is not enough that the plant, substance or structure is safe in its current capacity. The employer must consider any future foreseeable use and take reasonable steps to ensure that such use is safe.