Duties relating to other people at work

This position sets out what we expect of a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) and workers in relation to other people at a place of work and what we expect of other people at a place of work. Our expectations are based on the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). The idea behind these requirements is that everyone is responsible for health and safety at work.

Download the WorkSafe position on duties relating to other people at work [PDF 633KB]

When would other people be at work?

PCBUs and workers must make sure that the health and safety of other people is not at risk from work carried out. Situations where other people may be present at a place of work include, but are not limited to:

  • a shared place of work (eg a construction site or shared office space), with numerous PCBUs, workers and others located in or near the work being done
  • work in a public space (eg a store in a shopping mall, or services provided at a client’s site), where the work done is likely to affect others

Other people at a place of work must also look after their own health and safety and that of others (where possible). This is particularly so where they face unfamiliar risks.

See Special Guide – Introduction to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 for an explanation on what we consider a ‘workplace’. 

What does the law require when other people are at work?

The steps that people who hold a duty to others must take to meet their legal requirements depend on how much influence and control they have over what has created the risk.

In particular:

  • PCBUs must make sure that the health and safety of other people are not put at risk from work being done, or from anything else at the workplace (so far as reasonably practicable)
  • workers must take reasonable care to make sure their actions or inactions do not adversely affect the health and safety of others
  • other people at the workplace must take reasonable care for their own health and safety, and make sure that their actions or inactions do not adversely affect the health and safety of others; they must also follow any reasonable instruction from the PCBU. 

What should duty holders focus on?

While a PCBU has the primary duty of care, the requirements of other people at a place of work acknowledge that others can help to achieve health and safety at work.

Everyone must keep in mind potential risks at work and take care that their actions don’t put them or anyone else in harm’s way. 

Focus for PCBUs

We expect all PCBUs to think broadly about the impacts of their activities on the health and safety of everyone at a workplace.

Other people potentially at risk from work activities include volunteers, customers, passers-by, visitors, or PCBUs or workers of another entity.

A PCBU’s duties to other people interrelate with their duties to consult, co-operate and co-ordinate with other PCBUs with overlapping duties. See WorkSafe position on overlapping duties

Focus for workers

We expect workers to take care of their own health and safety and follow instructions from the PCBU. We expect them to think about how their actions (or inaction) at work might harm the health and safety of others at work. 

Focus for other people

We expect others at a place of work to understand that they are in a work environment with potential risks to their health and safety. We expect them to take care of their own health and safety, and to follow the instructions of the PCBU. If other people at a place of work do these things, they will reduce the risk of harming themselves or others. 

What is WorkSafe's approach to duties relating to other people at a place of work?

All people at a place of work should look out for their own health and safety and think about the health and safety of others, as much as they can.

When visiting a place of work, we will consider everyone’s duties and actions, but will focus our attention on those people who have the most control or influence in the particular circumstances.

We will likely focus on the PCBU, as they are responsible for the health and safety of all people at a place of work (as far as reasonably practicable).

We will be balanced when assessing what action to take if other people have been harmed, or if they were at risk of harm from work carried out. We will consider the extent that such harm was due to the actions or inaction of other people. We expect other people to have followed reasonable instructions (including on any signs) about how they should behave at a place of work, and to have not acted recklessly. However, we do not expect other people to know more about a place of work than is reasonable for them to know. 

More information about duties relating to others at work

Sections 36 to 46 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 cover the duties to other people at the workplace. Also read the Special Guide – Introduction to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.