What is a PCBU Under New WHS Legislation

by Dave Collins on September 13, 2015



The Safety Nerd strikes again!, I’m a big fan of the latest contributor to the safety blogosphere, her posts are quirky, practical, informative and just plain fun to read. Here is her latest post, enjoy:

“pee-ka-boo” – the in’s and out’s of PCBUs

Posted on September 21, 2011 by The Safety Nerd Okay, if you’re anything like The Safety Nerd you like being creative with safety and it’s seems to have caught on a bit the terms PCBUs which is nicknamed around the traps as ’peek-a-boos’.    It actually stands for a person conducting a business or undertaking….a mouthful, I know….I much prefer calling it peek-a-boos. To explain, lets take the example of the current NSW laws.  The OHS Act 2000 is predicated on the employment relationship being employer and employee and it’s very clear what an employer is expected to do for its employees.  But what about all the other people that come and go within a workplace? It does include all the other people….but….it is limited to ensuring that your premises which is provided as a workplace or a product used in the workplace is safe and without risks to all those other people such as contractors and visitors. The laws were reviewed in the late 1990s, but are still based on the Robens model.  A lot has changed between now than then.  Casuals now account for 20% of the workforce and contractors consist of 8.2%.    A whopping 95.8% of businesses employ 20 or fewer people and 58% don’t employ anyone at all.  A broad brush approached was needed, which is where PCBU’s come in. The primary duty of care is applied to PCBUs – the reasoning behind this approach is because anyone who conducts a business or undertaking can influence one or more elements that goes to the performance of work, and therefore may affect the health and safety of those undertaking that work or others affected by work undertaken.  It also means you don’t have to employ people to be in a position of influence to have an effect on health and safety of the people doing the work. So ….you ask….what is a business or undertaking? It’s activities carried out by, or under the control of a person whether alone or with others whether or not its for profit or gain.  It also 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, partners, franchisees, franchisors, principal contractors, sub contractors, businesses who design manufacturer, import, supply plant substances and structured used at work and businesses who control workplaces, fixtures, fittings and plant at workplaces. So who isn’t included? A person engaged solely as a worker or officer 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). But what do PCBUs have to do? Under S18(3) of the WHS Act PCBUs have a primary duty to provide:



  • a work environment without risk to health and safety
  • Safe plant and structures
  • 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
  • Adequate information, training, structure and supervision
  • Adequate monitoring of conditions to prevent injury and illness

There’s also other duties such as:

  • Consultation
  • Issue resolution
  • Incident notification
  • Comply with regulations (including licences and permits)

The biggest changes (in my opinion) is the requirement to consult with people other than just employees.  End of the day increased communication with all parties can’t hurt in improving safety outcomes…I’m guessing there will just be a bit of moaning and groaning until the outcomes are realised. Clear as mud The Safety Nerd x



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