Managing Overlapping Health and Safety Duties
Health and Safety / 24 July 2019
Health and safety duties can overlap within a contractual relationship. We discussed this, and the cases coming through which highlight the approach WorkSafe is taking to enforcement of these overlapping duties, in our recent seminar series. Section 34 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (Act) is intended to ensure that all potential gaps in these are covered, by imposing a duty on PCBUs to consult, cooperate with and coordinate activities with all other PCBUs who have a duty in relation to the same matter.
In short, WorkSafe is actively prosecuting all parties to health and safety breaches, so that PCBUs cannot simply “outsource” responsibility or rely on another contracting party to manage health and safety on any worksite. If your business has more influence and control over the matter, it is likely you will have more responsibility, as you are in the better position to manage these risks. It is recommended businesses have monitoring in place to ensure each business is doing what they have agreed to do. The requirement to consult, cooperate and coordinate helps businesses to reach common ground in their understanding of their roles, responsibilities and actions in contractual relationships.
Recent debate has arisen about the usefulness of pre-qualification checks on contractors. Pre-qualification checks are used by PCBUs to assess the general ability and competence of various contractors before work is carried out. It is good practice to complete pre-qualification checks, as it will assist in monitoring your due diligence prior to engaging a contractor. However, it is important to remember that these pre-qualification checks do not replace your obligations to consult, cooperate and coordinate with other PCBUs who have a health and safety duty in relation to the same matter.
Message for PCBUs
Ensuring you have a comprehensive health and safety management plan, including steps to take when engaging with other PCBUs, is important to ensure all bases are covered. How best to manage engagement with other PCBUs will often depend on practical considerations, but documenting the approach, as well as carrying out pre-qualification checks for contractor selection, is recommended.
Our team can provide support with health and safety law queries.
Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law and health and safety topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.