Leadership in large and medium-sized business

Leading safety in medium to large business – getting started

This information is for medium to large businesses – those with more than 20 workers. These larger organisations are more likely to use internal management structures to get the information needed to manage work health and safety risks.

If you want to check your work health and safety leadership status, we suggest you start with the resources on this page.

If you are confident you are compliant with your duties, but you want to improve your health and safety leadership and organisational culture, we suggest you start with leading safety in medium to large business – principles of good leadership.

The law – due diligence

If you are an officer in a company as defined in the Corporations Act, the work health and safety laws say you must take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure the business or undertaking is meeting its legal obligations.

The Work Health and Safety Act in most jurisdictions imposes a specific duty on the officers of corporations to exercise due diligence to ensure that their business meets its work health and safety obligations.

Officers determine how the business or undertaking will operate and they make, or participate in making decisions on allocating resources which affect health and safety.

To demonstrate due diligence, officers must show that they have taken reasonable steps to:

  • acquire and update their knowledge of health and safety matters
  • understand the operations being carried out by the person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) in which they are employed, and the hazards and risks associated with the operations
  • ensure that the person conducting the business or undertaking has, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimize health and safety risks arising from work being done
  • ensure that the person conducting the business or undertaking has appropriate processes in place to receive and respond promptly to information regarding incidents, hazards and risks, and
  • ensure that the person conducting the business or undertaking has, and uses, processes for complying with their legal work health and safety duties or obligations.

This approach emphasises the corporate governance responsibilities of officers.

These due diligence duties will support improved leadership, which in turn contributes to a safety culture.


Safety leadership

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland uses the Safety Leadership model. It includes a range of tools and resources available from [link to https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/safety-leadership-at-work/tools-and-resources]

Checking compliance

More information on your obligations as an officer under the work health and safety laws can be found in the Model WHS laws FAQs and in the Interpretive Guideline—model Work Health and Safety Act — the health and safety duty of an officer under section 27.

Leading safe business checklist

Check your work health and safety leadership status with the Leading Safe Business Checklist.

Leading health and safety at work

WorkSafe ACT Leading Health and Safety at Work is useful information about integrating safety into your governance framework.

Moving up the culture ladder

An organisation’s safety maturity can be shown as a ladder which goes from a poor culture to one where safety is an integral part of business.Most organisations that want to improve their work health and safety need a roadmap. This is what the safety culture ladder offers – a structure to help decide where you are now, where you want to be, and how to get there.

International safety expert, Professor Patrick Hudson, gives suggestions on how organisations can use the concept of the ‘safety ladder’ to advance their safety.

Moving up the culture ladder video

Safety culture and leadership

Professor Patrick Hudson talks more about safety leadership and describes the three elements of culture.

Safety culture and leadership video

See examples of how some businesses have invested time and resources to improve their culture.

Your Stories - safety leaders sharing their experience building and maintaining a positive safety culture in their workplace.

Leading safety in a medium to large business – principles of good leadership

The following key principles underpin what you need to do to lead work health and safety effectively in your organisation. They will also help you to create a positive organisational climate which values good work health and safety.

principles of good leadership

Figure: Leadership Principles (JPEG 117kb)

Leaders are committed and accountable

You can show this by:

  • incorporating health and safety into the organisation’s values and ensuring your decisions and actions are consistent with and support these values
  • setting and monitoring organisational and individual performance measures, and
  • public reporting on work health and safety performance, for example in annual reports.


Leaders are actively involved

You can show this by:

  • sending clear and unambiguous messages to your workers and demonstrating the behaviour expected in your organisation, and its teams
  • regularly visiting the workplace and actively asking about work health and safety practices
  • having work health and safety as a regular agenda item at meetings, and
  • ensuring the board, executive and managers are effectively communicating the organisation’s health and safety values.


Leaders encourage and value workers’ participation

You can show this by:

  • ensuring effective consultation processes are in place
  • inviting all levels of the workforce to participate in work health and safety decisions and activities
  • ensuring the board, executive and managers are aware of workers’ concerns, and
  • rewarding health and safety contributions and good performance.


There are three Virtual Seminar Series videos about WorkSafe Victoria’s Skeleton Project

Leaders ensure effective work health and safety governance

You can show this by:

  • developing your own knowledge and the skills you need to carry out your work health and safety responsibilities
  • getting competent health and safety advice and using it to inform decisions
  • acting on competent advice and confirming processes and resources are followed
  • providing resources to manage health and safety risks, and
  • integrating work health and safety into all your business decisions, activities and processes.


Leaders continually monitor and review their business’ performance

You can show this by:

  • auditing work health and safety management systems
  • ensuring comprehensive work health and safety data and information is collected and reported
  • addressing any identified non-compliance or weakness in performance
  • encourage your workers to report incidents and near misses, and
  • investigating when something goes wrong to understand and remedy the reasons behind near misses.



Questions should be emailed to info@swa.gov.au.

Quick links and Initiatives


Information Publication Scheme FOI Disclosure Log

Bottom navigation