Understanding Due Diligence
As many RCSA members would know, Directors (Officers), have a direct legal duty to ensure the business meets its WHS duties. This includes:
making sure workers and other persons are protected against harm, and
making sure your business has suitable safe work systems in place.
If a Director fails to meet their duty as an Officer, they can be prosecuted. This can happen even when an incident hasn't occurred, or the business has not been held liable. Directors who are found liable for WHS beaches may face hefty penalties and jail time.
This was certainly the case for a company director in Western Australia who is the lastest individual to be imprisoned as a result of safety breaches leading to the death of one worker, and serious injuries of another worker. The sole director of MT Sheds Pty Ltd has been sentenced to a record prison term of two years and two months. While this Director is the first person to be jailed under Western Australia's occupational safety and health laws, it's certainly not the first case in Australia. Lander & Rogers e-bulletin 'Director latest to be sentenced to imprisonment for gross negligence' (May 2021) explores recent cases in Australia involving safety offenses and key takeaways for duty-holders and officers.
It's an important reminder to recruitment and staffing firms that it's not just the business that has a legal duty under health and safety laws, Directors and others who fall under the definition of an Officer have a duty to exercise due diligence.
Upcoming Due Diligence Training Event
If you want to develop essential insight on due diligence obligations under Australian health and safety law, and the steps required to exercise this duty, register to attend the RCSA's Understanding Due Diligence online workshop in July.