Caring for others, whether at home or in the workplace is a human trait most of us experience in one form or another. In legal terms, a duty of care is an obligation to provide a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that might foreseeably harm others. Duty of care forms a key principle in the Health and Safety in the Workplace Act.

Under the HSWA, the business has the primary duty of care and, together with workers also taking care of their own safety, it forms the basis of good workplace health and safety.

Compliance with the HSWA in your workplace can be achieved or not, depending on whether everyone fulfills their duty of care. So how do you ensure the required duty of care is complied with and what does it look like in practice?

Primary duty of care means that a business has the primary responsibility for the health and safety of workers and those influenced by, or at risk from its activities. That could include customers, visitors, children, or the general public.

The primary duty of care is the overarching duty to ensure health and safety “so far as is reasonably practicable”. Reasonably practicable means, having weighed up all relevant matters, something is considered reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety in the workplace. That could include examining how likely any hazards or risks are to occur, how severe the harm might be as a result, or what measures exist to eliminate or minimise the risk.

How much care might be needed to comply depends on what position a person has and what authority they have been given by the PCBU. Ultimately, it can help to remember that everyone in the workplace is on the same team and will benefit from good workplace health and safety.