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Duties of officers

Last updated May 2024

This chapter explains who is an officer under health and safety legislation, their duties and how to comply with them.

Who is an officer?

Under health and safety legislation an officer is:

  • a director or secretary of a company;
  • a person who makes or participates in making decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part, of the company; or
  • a person who has the capacity to significantly affect the company’s financial standing, and whose wishes or instructions the directors of the company are likely to fulfil.

Both the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) (which applies to all jurisdictions except Victoria) and the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) adopt the definition of officer from the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).

Important: In Western Australia, the Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WA) has replaced the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA) (OSH Act). The new WHS Act will apply for any offences that occurred after 31 March 2022.

Officers will always include the following people:

  • chief executive officers (CEOs);
  • chief financial officers (CFOs);
  • chief operating officers (COOs);
  • directors; and
  • company secretaries.

An officer also includes a manager in charge of the operational part of the company who has organisational control over that part of the business.

Important: Under the OHS Act (Vic), an elected member of a local government authority is an officer. This is not the case under the WHS Act or the former OSH Act (WA).