Understanding WHS Duties in Outsourcing: A Retail Perspective

Safe Work Australia (SWA) has introduced new resources that address Work Health and Safety (WHS) obligations in outsourcing setups. This comes as a timely update for businesses, including those in the retail sector, that have subcontracted or franchised services.

Key Takeaways

  • Case Studies by SWA: SWA provided two detailed case studies centered on outsourcing and franchising. One illustrative case looks at a call-answering service for businesses, emphasising the shared responsibilities both parties have in safeguarding employees from harmful experiences.
  • Updated WHS Consultation Checklist: SWA’s enhanced checklist ensures that duty holders have a clearer grasp of their WHS responsibilities, aiding in better risk management.

Legal Obligations

Duty to Consult Workers:

  • The person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)/employer has a legal obligation to consult workers who are directly affected by health or safety matters in the workplace. This isn’t just best practice; it’s a legal requirement.
  • Should there be agreed-upon procedures for such consultation between the PCBU/employer and the workers, those specific procedures need to be followed.

Duty to Consult with Other Duty Holders:

  • In scenarios where multiple parties have a duty concerning the same WHS matter, they must work together. It’s not just about understanding your duty, but actively coordinating with others who share that responsibility. This ensures a comprehensive approach to WHS.

Retail Scenario 1

Imagine a retail business that outsources its customer service hotline to an external provider. This hotline frequently gets calls from irate or dissatisfied customers. Both the retailer and the service provider have a shared duty to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the customer service representatives from potential risks like verbal abuse and heightened stress. They cannot transfer this responsibility solely to one party. Both need to consult regularly, share information on potential risks, and collaboratively find ways to minimise them.

Retail Scenario 2

Consider a retailer that outsources its in-store security to a third-party firm. Both the retailer and the security firm have shared WHS responsibilities, necessitating a joint approach that hinges on consultation, cooperation, and coordination. By actively engaging with one another, they can identify and mitigate risks, ensuring the safety of security personnel, other staff, and customers. Frequent communication about potential hazards, store-specific needs, and feedback from frontline security personnel is paramount. This collaborative strategy ensures a partnership based on the principles of shared duty.

The Importance of the Checklist:

The newly updated WHS consultation checklist by SWA is a valuable tool for retailers. Here’s why:

  • Clarity: The checklist provides detailed guidance, breaking down what’s expected of duty holders in different scenarios, especially when multiple businesses share responsibilities.
  • Flexibility: The checklist emphasises that consultation can take multiple forms – be it team meetings, toolbox talks, or individual discussions. This allows retailers to adopt what suits their business best.
  • Documentation: While not always mandatory, keeping records of consultations is recommended. It’s not just about compliance; these records can be essential in refining practices and ensuring continuous improvement in WHS protocols.

Whether you’re a small boutique or a large retail chain, understanding and adhering to these guidelines is paramount. For further understanding and to ensure the highest standards are met, all retail businesses are urged to review the Model Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination and the updated Consultation Checklist provided by Safe Work Australia. These resources are instrumental in navigating the intricacies of WHS in outsourcing contexts, ensuring your business remains compliant and your workers stay safe.



The material within this update is provided for general information and educational purposes in summary form on topics that are current when it is first published. The content does not constitute legal advice or recommendations and should not be relied upon as such.



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