Duty of care and duty to consult

There are general laws about ensuring the health and safety of workers and others in the workplace, and consulting with them about work health and safety issues. Here we summarise those laws and give you some practical tips.

Must do's

Duty of care

You are responsible for the health and safety of those in your workplace, including visitors. And, if you’re self-employed, you’re responsible for your own safety and the safety of others.

You must ensure that:

  • the work environment, systems of work, machinery and equipment are safe and properly maintained
  • chemicals are used, handled and stored safely
  • adequate workplace facilities are available
  • information, training, instruction and supervision are provided
  • workers’ health and workplace conditions are monitored
  • any accommodation you provide to your workers is  safe.

Duty to consult

Share information with anyone likely to be directly affected by a work health and safety matter – and give them the opportunity to express their views and contribute to any decisions relating to the matter.

Take their views into account and let them know the outcome of consultation in a timely manner.

You must also consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with other individuals and organisations – and any health and safety representative (HSR) – who have a duty in relation to the same matter,

Establish consultation arrangements that best suit the needs of your workers, be it regular toolbox talks or scheduled meetings with their HSR or health and safety committee (HSC).

You must consult when:

  • identifying hazards and assessing risks
  • making decisions about ways to eliminate or control risks, and workplace facilities
  • proposing changes that may affect the health and safety of workers
  • making decisions about consulting procedures, resolving safety issues, monitoring workers’ health and conditions, and providing information and training.

More information

For the general laws regarding your duty of care, see section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

For the general laws about consultation, see sections 46 – 49 of the Work Health and Safety Act  2011.

For more practical information about consultation, see the code of practice for work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination. It includes a consultation checklist and examples of consultation arrangements.

Other general duties, including those affecting designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers of plant and structures, are outlined in sections 20 – 26 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.