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With the new Work, Health and Safety Act and all of the changes that go with it about to become effective over the next few months it is important to have a clear understanding of this act as a whole and various parts specifically. One of the areas where corporations and businesses are due to see a big change is the responsibility of the officers of a business to actively ensure that their businesses comply with the new OHS harmonisation laws and regulations. Failure of officers to do so can result in a personal fine of up to $600,000 and/or 5 years in prison.

Therefore it is of paramount importance for businesses to know just who is deemed an officer under the Work Health and Safety act. Under this act an officer is defined as:

  • Any director or secretary of a corporation
  • Any administrators or Liquidator of a corporation
  • All officers in an unincorporated association
  • Any other person who makes or participated in making decisions that affect the corporation or business as a whole.
  • Any person who makes or participates in making decisions that affect significant part of the corporation or business.
  • Any person who has the capacity to significantly affect the corporation or business
  • And any person on whose instructions or wishes a business or corporation is used to acting on.

Under the new guidelines all officers must exercise due diligence to make sure that their company complies with all of its safety obligations including:

  • Keeping current on all work health and safety matters
  • Understand the operations of the business and know and understand the risks and hazard associated with those operations.
  • To make sure that the business has the necessary resources to minimize risks to health and safety and that those resources are being used properly.
  • Make sure that the business has and implements all the necessary processes for complying with the laws which include: reporting incidents, consultations with workers, ensuring that workers get the the proper training and instruction regarding work, health and safety
  • And ensuring that health and safety supervisors get the training they need to perform their job correctly.

By taking the time now to understand just who is deemed an officer under the new laws and making sure that all those who are deemed officers have the training and are prepared to take on their new more active roles in overseeing the safety of the workers and the business you can avoid some costly future mistakes.

Remember under the new guidelines officers may be liable for any breach of safety even if no incidents or accidents occur. This could be costly to both the individual officer and to your company as a whole. So, it is essential that every officer has the training necessary to understand their obligations and how to carry them out before the January 1, 2012 deadline. Being prepared will help your business make a smoother transition.

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