WHS consultants

WHS Consultants and trainers cover a wide range of disciplines - including medicine, ergonomics, safety science, hygiene, engineering and various other scientific disciplines plus risk management.

WHS consultants and trainers cover a wide range of disciplines - including medicine, ergonomics, safety science, hygiene, engineering and various other scientific disciplines plus risk management.
The brief to consultants can be focused or broad. For example, a business may wish to have a general safety audit done or it may request a detailed recommendation on handling particular chemicals.
A key factor that applies to consultants is that they have relationships with their clients which are determined by the terms of contracts. These contracts may be detailed written contracts or simply oral contracts and all the variations in between.
Responsibilities and obligations
The legal position of WHS consultants is a complex and varied one. Consultants would generally seek to shift the responsibility for the consequences of their work to the client that engaged them. There are contractual issues here. At general law, a person who suffered damage as a result of work done by a consultant acting on behalf of a business client would sue both the business and the consultant. It then becomes a contest between insurers in most cases as the enforcement and impact of the contracts in issue are decided.
Consultants who are involved in litigation find their insurance premiums going up and possibly their work declining so it is in their interests to avoid legal entanglements whenever possible.

In summary, the responsibilities/obligations of WHS consultants are:
  • to keep current with their areas of specialisation so they are always acting with the best information
  • to consider the implementation and application of their advice so that businesses actually benefit from their input — in other words, when the consultant delivers recommendations etc there should be a consideration of the implementation of this information
  • to keep current with legal information as it impacts on their work — this includes changes to legislation and developments in the courts — in particular, case law developments that give insights into what should be done or different ways of doing what consultants do
  • to keep accurate records so that there is a traceable WHS history in relation to a consultant's work with a business — in this way the measures taken can be assessed over time and the introduction of new or different approaches can be properly considered
  • to work with the staff of a business to achieve a lasting result —as consultants are generally brought in to solve a problem, there is good reason to involve the staff of the business so that any solution can be effectively implemented over time (ie when the consultant is no longer on-site).
What you should do 
WHS consultants should ensure that they have appropriate insurance cover. For example, cover in respect of negligent advice is recommended. Even when the principal of the consultancy business is particularly careful, there are staff who may not be as meticulous and this can cause problems for the consultancy.
As professional practitioners in specialised fields, WHS consultants need to keep up with developing trends and advances in their disciplines.
[Last updated 5 June 2018]


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