Group training: duties of persons conducting a business or undertaking
This guide provides information for Group Training Organisation persons conducting a business or undertaking (GTO PCBUs) involved in the supply of apprentices and trainees to work for another person conducting a business or undertaking (host PCBUs).
Group Training Organisations and host employer/PCBUs must both comply with their health and safety duties under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017.
Work Health and Safety Act and group training arrangements
A Group Training Organisation (GTO) is a corporation established predominately to provide training and employment opportunities. GTOs employ apprentices and trainees and are responsible for ensuring that those workers receive suitable training and experience. As workers, apprentices and trainees are covered under the WHS Act and the WHS Regulation.
The primary duty of care under the WHS Act is owed by an employer/PCBU to a ‘worker’. Both the GTO PCBU and the host employer/PCBU have a primary duty of care for the health and safety of Group Training apprentices or trainees.
The WHS Act provides that a GTO PCBU may have the same duty as a host employer/PCBU. If more than one person has a duty for the same matter, each person must meet their duty to the extent to which they have the capacity to influence and control the matter. Duty holders cannot contract out of or transfer their WHS obligations to another person.
Consultation between PCBUs
All duty holders in a Group Training arrangement must consult, cooperate and coordinate with each other. Duty holders should not assume that someone else is taking care of a health and safety matter. Find out who is doing what and work together with other duty holders so risks are eliminated or minimised appropriate to the circumstances.
Some GTO PCBUs may have substantial knowledge of WHS issues and risk management practices in their industry that may assist in assessing the practices of a host PCBU and ensuring compliance with WHS laws.
Relevant issues for duty holders to discuss will depend on the circumstances. These may include:
- identifying hazards and risks that may arise, taking into account things like the physical environment where work will occur
- identifying control measures to eliminate or minimise risks and the suitability of those measures
- ensuring compliance with minimum requirements set by legislation, such as the WHS laws
Carrying out work
- how work will be carried out (including safe work methods and processes that are already in place or need to be in place)
- the people involved in the work (including supervision arrangements)
- competency and training requirements, including arrangement for the provision of additional training required for the particular work
- arrangements for facilitating assessments of the individual worker’s needs and/or competencies, as appropriate
Responding to incidents
- the respective roles of both organisations in responding to an incident, as well as relevant policies and procedures, and
- any other factors which may impact the work environment and how work is carried out.
Like all PCBUs, Group Training and host PCBUs are required to be proactive in managing hazards and risks. The duties in the WHS Act are ongoing and must be complied with throughout the GTO arrangement.
Change in the workplace
Be aware that circumstances can change over time and this may result in a change in the hazards and risks or in the ways they may be eliminated or minimised. Changes that may necessitate a review of hazards, risks and control measures may include:
- change in a work process
- change in the physical environment
- different people undertaking the work, with different skills or means of coordinating of activities
- new hazards are identified, and
- new ways to eliminate or minimise risks are identified or invented.
Right to refuse to work
If a GTO apprentice or trainee has a reasonable concern that to carry out the work would expose them to a serious health or safety risk, they may cease, or refuse to carry out work. A GTO and host PCBU must not discriminate against a worker for exercising this or any other right under the WHS Act.
Duties of a host PCBU
As a host PCBU you have the same health and safety duties to GTO apprentices and trainees as you do to other types of workers. It is your duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all workers while at work. This duty requires you to eliminate or to minimise risks to their health and safety. To identify what is reasonably practicable to do, you must take into account all the relevant matters and work with the GTO PCBU to provide the highest level of protection that is both possible and reasonable in the circumstances.
Before engaging a GTO apprentice or trainee
Before you engage GTO apprentices or trainees to carry out work, you should consider:
- providing the GTO PCBU with detailed information about the nature of work to be carried out including details of, and where possible supporting material, relating to:
- the work environment
- the tasks to be performed
- accommodation arrangements
- any known hazards or risks
- any plant or equipment to be used
- organisational and WHS arrangements, including supervision arrangements and any other organisations responsible for the worker during the arrangement
- health and safety risks associated with the work
- any skills, knowledge, licenses and qualification is required to safely undertake the work required
- verifying, in consultation with the GTO PCBU, that the selected worker/s have any necessary qualifications, licences, skills and training to carry out the work safely. In limited circumstances, you may be required to verify the worker/s are medically fit to carry out the work (see clauses 168 and 417(3)(b) of the WHS Regulations)
- discussing with the labour hire PCBU arrangements for health monitoring and vaccinations
- consulting with the GTO PCBU on WHS matters including in relation to who will provide any necessary equipment such as personal protective equipment (PPE), and relevant points of contact for health and safety between the organisations
- ensuring that general health and safety information about the work, workplace and work environment has been provided to the worker/s. Check that you have provided this information in a way that is suitable, adequate and readily understandable for the worker/s
- eliminating or, if that is not reasonably practicable, minimising risks in the workplace
- establishing, in consultation with the GTO PCBU, a review process for ensuring the ongoing WHS of workers, and
- any more you can do to ensure the health and safety of all your workers.
During a GTO apprentice or trainee placement
While GTO apprentices and trainees are carrying out work, you should consider:
- providing the worker/s with a site specific safety induction outlining WHS duties, policies, procedures and practices in the workplace including consultation methods
- where WHS advice or workplace assessments are required, ensuring the persons engaged to conduct those assessments are suitably qualified
- treating GTO apprentices and trainees as you would employees and other workers with respect to health and safety and the provision of a safe working environment and PPE
- providing adequate supervision of GTO apprentices and trainees at all times to ensure that work is being performed safely
- consulting with the GTO PCBU and worker/s regarding any changes which may affect WHS. Ensure you do not transfer workers to new tasks or change the nature of their work tasks, work environment or work location until you have consulted with the worker/s and obtained the approval of the GTO PCBU
- encouraging GTO apprentices and trainees to participate in the identification of hazards and risks specific to their work
- supporting and encouraging GTO apprentices and trainees to participate in workplace safety consultative arrangements
- working with the GTO PCBU to facilitate appropriate WHS arrangements. For example, allow the GTO PCBU access to workers, the workplace and relevant documents for the purpose of workplace safety assessments and to fulfil their WHS duties as a PCBU
- facilitating any assessments conducted by the GTO PCBU/s, for example, WHS management assessments or work site assessments.
- providing any further training, instruction or information prior to transferring a GTO apprentice or trainee to new tasks, in a way that is suitable, adequate and readily understandable to the worker.
- encouraging apprentices or trainees to maintain contact with the GTO PCBU throughout their placement, and
- in the event of an incident, notify the GTO PCBU as soon as practicable and working with them to implement agreed arrangements. For example, allow the GTO PCBU access to the workplace and to relevant documents to fulfil their WHS duties as a PCBU.
Duties of a GTO PCBU
As a GTO PCBU under the WHS laws, it is your duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers during their placement with host PCBU/s. It is your duty to eliminate or, if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise risks to health and safety, that a GTO apprentice or trainee may encounter. In some circumstances, this means not placing workers in, or removing workers from, a workplace where you believe there is a risk to their health and safety or where risks have not been adequately controlled.
Before placing GTO apprentices and trainees
Before you place a GTO apprentice or trainee, you should consider:
Make an informed assessment of the host employer
- reviewing the host PCBU’s safety record to satisfy yourself that the host PCBU provides a safe workplace
- gathering information about the work and the workplace/s, including the work environment/s, accommodation arrangements, organisational arrangements, health and safety risks associated with the work and any skills and knowledge the worker will require to safely undertake the work. This might include information about facilities, work schedules and environmental factors, such as whether work will be conducted outdoors
- assessing the workplace/s for any risks to health and safety, as appropriate. Work with the host PCBU/s to gather enough information to make an assessment, for example, by arranging a workplace visit. Where risks are identified, consult with the host to ensure they are eliminated, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimised
Ensure the worker is supported to do suitable work
- providing workers with a suitable, adequate and readily understandable WHS induction and training. Include any risks you have identified and consultation methods you have established with workers and the host PCBU/s
- verifying and working with the host PCBU to ensure site specific and task specific induction, training and PPE is provided to GTO apprentices and trainees in a way that is suitable, adequate and readily understandable to them.
- ensuring that workers have the necessary qualifications, licences, skills and training to safely carry out the work. In limited circumstances, you may be required to verify the worker/s are medically fit to carry out the work (see clauses 168 and 417(3)(b) of the WHS Regulations)
Consult with the host employer and the worker
- consulting with the host PCBU and GTO apprentices and trainees to ensure you and the GTO apprentice or trainee understand and are confident in your understanding of the WHS policies, procedures and practices of the host PCBU/s
- discussing with the host PCBU arrangements for health monitoring and vaccinations
- establishing communication methods GTO apprentices and trainees can use to contact you if they consider there is any risk to their health or safety
- discussing consultation arrangements with the host PCBU/s
Empower the worker to raise safety issues
- ensuring GTO apprentices and trainees have the means to identify and take action in an unsafe situation at the host workplace, such as stopping work or bringing it to the attention of the host PCBU/s, a health and safety committee representative or a health and safety representative
- ensuring the GTO apprentice or trainee has the means to raise safety issues with you if they are unsatisfied with the host PCBU’s response
- establishing, in consultation with the host PCBU/s, a review process for ensuring the ongoing WHS of GTO apprentices and trainees, and
- any more you can do to ensure the health and safety of the GTO apprentice or trainee.
During an apprentice or trainee placement
While your apprentices or trainees are placed with the host PCBU, you should consider:
Consult about any changes or unforeseen circumstances
- consulting with the host PCBU and the GTO apprentice and trainee on any changes which may affect their health and safety. For example, this may include consultation about the use of plant and equipment not envisaged prior to placement
- working with the host PCBU to undertake workplace safety assessments in accordance with agreed arrangements
- where WHS advice or workplace assessments are required, working with the host PCBU to ensure the persons/s engaged to conduct those assessments are suitably qualified
Continue to monitor
- monitoring the workplace for new risks to health and safety and consulting with the host PCBU/s about how they might be addressed. This might include regular visits to the host workplace
- taking effective action when the worker or host PCBU identifies risks or raises concerns about health and safety. This might include removing the worker from the workplace, and
- in the event of an incident, work with the host PCBU to respond effectively.
- Labour hire
- At risk workers
- Group training organisations: duties of person conducting a business or undertaking (PDF)
This work is a derivative of Labour hire: duties of persons conducting a business or undertaking by SafeWork Australia available under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International.
Thanks to the Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT for their support, advice and guidance on the development of this guide.