What is Work, Health and Safety?

  • Work health and safety (WHS) – sometimes called occupational health and safety (OH&S) – involves the management of risks to the health and safety of everyone in your workplace. 

  • This includes the health and safety of anyone who does work for you as well as your parishioners, visitors and contractors.

What we must do:

Under the Work, Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) we must ensure the health and safety of our workers and not put the health and safety of other people at risk. To do this you must:

  • provide a safe work environment

  • provide and maintain safe machinery and structures

  • provide safe ways of working

  • ensure safe use, handling and storage of machinery, structures and substances

  • provide and maintain adequate facilities

  • provide any information, training, instruction or supervision needed for safety

  • monitor the health of workers and conditions at the workplace.

The legal framework

In South Australia:


The Work Health and Safety Act imposes various duties on both employers and employees. For Synod, the key questions are the following:

  1. Does the Synod of the Diocese of Adelaide of the Anglican Church of Australia Inc (the Synod) constitute the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) in respect of parishes within the Adelaide Diocese for the purpose of the Work, Health and Safety Act 2012 (WHS Act)? 

  2. Would the Synod be deemed responsible for fulfilling various duties imposed on PCBUs by the WHS Act? 

The answer in respect of both of these questions is yes

When do WHS laws apply?

The WHS Act applies to all Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU). Any and all PCBU’s must comply with the WHS Act. A PCBU may include:

  • A company, unincorporated body or assoc.

  • A Sole trader

  • Government department or Statutory Authority

A volunteer organisation is a PCBU if it employs one or more paid workers.

Nature of the Primary Duty of Care

A PCBU has the primary duty of care under the WHS Act to ensure the health and safety of workers and others at the workplace, so far as is reasonably practicable. The PCBU must also ensure that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work as carried out by the PCBU.

The policy behind this very broad application of health and safety duties was to modernise the legislation to cover all types of working arrangements which occur in the present day. The duties extend as far as the reach of adverse health and safety consequences of work done by a PCBU.

            So health and safety duties are now owed by more people, to more people.

Under the WHS Act “worker” is given a very broad definition and includes any of the following:

  • Employees; Volunteers; Contractors or subcontractors (and employees of those contractors or subcontractors); Employees of labour hire companies who are assigned to work in the organisation; Apprentices and trainees; and students gaining work experience.

However, given that Synod is incorporated and has far greater resources than an individual parish, it is likely that Synod will be regarded as the principal PCBU under the WHS Act. So, this WHS Policy is of general application and binding across the entire Diocese.

What if two entities have the same duties?

  • The duties imposed on an organisation under the WHS Act are not transferable, nor can they be delegated or contracted. 

  • In terms of compliance, the PCBU must comply with its WHS duties to the extent to which it has the capacity to influence and control the matter: ie where the person or organisation is able to make decisions or influence the making of decisions about that aspect of the workplace. 

  • Synod has this ability to influence and control:

  • All clergy are licenced by the Archbishop: and/or

  • Synod owns Parish Trust Property Synod as trustee for most parishes, subject to the Parochial Administration Ordinance.

Synod and parishes, as PCBU’s have the primary duty of care and must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of:

  • workers you have engaged, or caused to be engaged

  • visitors and the public, and

  • workers carrying out work who are influenced or directed by you (e.g. contractors).

If a Parish engages a contractor, both parties have shared responsibilities and must work together to ensure the health and safety of themselves and others.

Contractors, PCBU's and Contracts

The primary duty of care applies to all PCBU’s regardless of the terms of any contract.

No ‘contracting out’ of WHS – this means that duty holders cannot limit or modify their obligation by way of a contract with a third party.

Each PCBU (i.e. Parish) and contractor are responsible for meeting that duty to the extent by which they have capacity to influence and control the matter.

The Diocesan Framework

The Work, Health and Safety Policy 2020

  • The Synod as the primary “Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking” is responsible for compliance with the WHS Act, as well as the supporting Regulations and associated Codes of Practice. 

  • It is the aim of the Synod to provide a working environment that minimises the risk to work health and safety as far as is reasonably practicable. This will be achieved by adopting a planned and systematic approach to the management of occupational health, safety and welfare. 

Policy principles

  • The Synod will provide a safe and healthy workplace/place of worship and community for workers and visitors.

  • The Synod has a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure that the Diocese complies with the WHS Act and Regulations.

  • All church workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and must comply with any reasonable instruction. 

  • There is a high degree of responsibility for WHS outcomes vested in:

  1. the Secretary of Synod; and

  2. Clergywardens and other managers where they have the control or can reasonably be expected to have control of tasks, activities, and access to and from the sites under their care.

What is an officer under the WHS Act?

Under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cwlth) an officer of an entity that is neither an individual nor a corporation relevantly includes: 

  • an office holder of an unincorporated association; or 

  • a person: 

  • who makes, or participates in making, decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part, of the business of the entity; or 

  • who has the capacity to affect significantly the entity's financial standing.

In the Diocesan context under this definition, an ‘officer’ includes a Priest, Warden, Parish Councilor as well as Diocesan Council etc.

Duties of Parish Officers

An officer’s duty is to exercise ‘due diligence’ to ensure their PCBU meets its duties to protect workers and other persons against harm to health and safety. 

Under the WHS Act, due diligence involves taking reasonable steps: 

  1. to acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of WHS matters; 

  2. to gain an understanding of the nature of the operations of the business or undertaking and generally of the hazards and risks associated

  3. to ensure that the PCBU has available for use, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety;

  4. to ensure that the PCBU has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazards and risks and responding in a timely way to that information; 

  5. to ensure that the PCBU has, and implements, processes for complying with any duty or obligation under the WHS Act; and 

  6. to verify the provision and use of the resources and processes referred to in paragraphs 3 to 5. 

An officer must take reasonable steps in relation to the matters in this list. 


A volunteer who is an officer has a duty to exercise due diligence, but cannot be prosecuted for failing to comply with that duty as an officer (see section 34 of the WHS Act). 

A volunteer can only be prosecuted if they fail to comply with their duties as a ‘worker’, not as an officer.

What does it mean for Parishes?

Members of Parish Councils and clergy need to be aware of their duties as officers and should consider ways of consulting with their workers on WHS matters. Some of the other more pressing actions that Parishes ought to consider are:

  • Liaise with the Diocese/Parishes on WHS policy and procedure matters;

  • Undertake a risk assessment; 

  • Including WHS as a standing agenda item on all PC meetings; and

  • Take steps to understand the requirement to report all WHS related incidents, and in particular Notifiable Incidents as defined by legislation.

WHS Committees

  • A Work, Health and Safety Committee (WHSC) will be constituted to cover every workplace/place of worship and community in the Synod. In parishes, the Parish Council is to double as the WHSC. 

  • The management representatives on this committee are the Parish Priest and Wardens. 

What Parishes need to do:

  1. Endorse WHS Policy

  2. Assign responsibility

  • Appoint a WHS Officer, if it hasn’t been done so already

  • Have WHS as a standing item on Parish Council agendas

  1. Assess

  • Carry out a bi-annual workplace inspection 

  1. Communicate with the congregation about the importance of WHS and reporting risks and incidents.

Forms - see attachment below:

>> In case of an incident – Form 2 (copy to Synod office)

>> If a notifiable incident – SafeWork SA

>> Workplace Inspection – Form 9 (copy to Synod office)

>> Offsite Activity Checklist – Form 10 (copy to Synod office)

>> Forms to be completed – Forms 1,3,5,7,9,10

>> Registers to maintain

  • Form 4 (sign in sheet); Form 6 (training)

  • Form 11 (Asbestos); Form 12 (hazardous substances)

>> Contractors – refer to Forms 4 & 5

Parish Council meetings:

  • WHS should be a standing item on Parish Council agendas

  • Under section 29(e) of the Parochial Administration Ordinance 1985, Parish Councils are required to keep and preserve all registers, records and documents of the Parish

  • As agent of the Synod (s31 of the PAO), Parish Councils must keep Synod informed of all incidents (for insurance purposes) as well as all WHS site inspections and offsite activities.

How can Synod Office help?

  • In March 2021, Diocesan Council approved the following:

  1. A Work Health and Safety Management Plan for Parishes and other Diocesan entities.

  2. WHS forms; and

  3. Amended WHS Policy and procedures.

  • The purpose of the Management Plan is to provide a structured, approach to WHS for parishes and other Diocesan entities 

  • The WHS forms are intended to provide a comprehensive safety net for parishes and other Diocesan entities. 


The training of workers and managers in WHS is essential, and a series of information sessions will be held for parishes, followed by an ongoing cycle of WHS training. 


To ensure compliance, work will be undertaken by Synod Office on an active audit process.


Synod Office developing a continual communications strategy to parishes and other stakeholders.

Need more information?

Safe Work Australia develops national policy relating to WHS and workers compensation. A downloadable sample risk register is also available at the website below.


Safe Work SA regulates and enforces WHS laws in South Australia.  Safe Work SA provides advice and education on work health and safety, provides licences and registration for workers and plant, investigates workplace incidents and enforces the work health and safety laws in South Australia.


A sample workplace environment and facilities checklist is also available here:


See Diocesan Policies