Obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act

Employer obligations

Under the OHSA 2004, employers must (so far as is reasonably practicable) provide and maintain a safe, risk-free working environment for their employees (s 21) and independent contractors (s 21(3)).

Section 20 provides guidance about the application of the “reasonably practicable” qualifier. Under section 20(1), an employer must eliminate a risk to health and safety if it is reasonably practicable to do so. The employer is only permitted to reduce a risk to health and safety if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate it. The application of the “reasonably practicable” qualifier requires the balancing of risk on the one hand with the cost of removing or reducing the risk on the other hand (s 20(2)).

Employers must also:

monitor employee health;

keep information and records on the health and safety of employees;

employ or engage qualified people to provide health and safety advice;

monitor workplace conditions; and

inform employees (in appropriate languages) of how, and to whom, a health and safety enquiry or complaint may be made (s 22).

Employee obligations

Under section 25 of the OHSA 2004, while “at work” an employee must:

take reasonable care of their own health and safety and for the health and safety of anyone else who may be affected by their acts or omissions at the workplace; and

cooperate with their employer in relation to the employer’s health and safety obligations.

Manufacturers’ and suppliers’ obligations

A manufacturer and supplier of a plant for use at a workplace must ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the plant is designed and constructed in such a way as to be safe and without risks to health when it is used for a purpose for which it was manufactured. The manufacturer must also carry out, or arrange to carry out, such testing as is necessary to ensure the plant is safe when properly used and must take appropriate action to ensure that there is information available at the workplace to ensure the safe use of the plant at the workplace (ss 29, 30 OHSA 2004).

Similar obligations are placed on the manufacturers and suppliers of substances for use at workplaces.