What is a PCBU?

Under the new Harmonised OHS laws being slowly adopted by each state is a new definition called a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking or PCBU.

From January 2012 in most states (SA in 2013) the PCBU has the primary duty of care. The reason behind this is to reflect the fact that anyone who conducts a business or undertaking can influence one or more elements of the way work is conducted, and therefore has an impact on the health and safety of those undertaking that work or affected by the work undertaken.

It also reflects changes in the way business is conducted over the past decade. Principally the fact you don’t have to employ people to be in a position of influence and have an effect on health and safety of those people doing the work.

A business or undertaking under the new OHS laws is defined as activities carried out by, or under the control of a person whether alone or with others. It includes activities conducted by a corporation, partnership, unincorporated association, self-employed person or government agency.

The primary duty is owed by the operator of the business or undertaking and this can include employers, self-employed contractors and sub-contractors, partners, franchisees and franchisors.

There are exceptions such as a person engaged solely as a worker or employee of a PCBU, a volunteer association if there is no person employed to carry out work, a charitable, social or sporting organisation when it’s purely social, not commercial, a person who engages workers solely for private or domestic purposes and an elected member of a local authority (another perk for the pollies).

Under Section 18(3) of the WHS Act the PCBU has a primary duty to provide:

  • a workplace without hazards or risk to health and safety
  • Safe plant and structures supported by safe systems of work
  • Safe use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances
  • Adequate facilities for welfare of those carrying out work for the business or undertaking
  • Sufficient safety information, training, structure and supervision
  • Adequate monitoring of conditions to prevent injury and illness

 There are other duties of the PCBU including the need to demonstrate a capability or system to ensure consultation, issue resolution and incident notification.

An important change is the requirement to consult with people other than just employees. If an incident did occur and a PCBU subjected to an investigation the most important thing to have in place is proof that officers of the PCBU have completed training in consulting with staff on OHS matters.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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