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Clearing Away the Murk on Health and Safety Obligations.

Published December 12, 2016 (last updated November 12, 2020) -

Following the amendments to health and safety legislation, employers have been growing increasingly more confused as to what exactly their obligations are in respect of ensuring their employees’ health and safety while at work.

This is why Employsure has simplified the below, to assist you with understanding your health and safety obligations.

Who is now responsible for employees’ health and safety?

Under the amended legislation which was introduced 4 April 2016, persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) are now responsible for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, that their workplaces are without risk to the health and safety of any person. However, the new legislation now also puts a duty of care onto officers, to ensure the PCBU for their business is meeting all their health and safety requirements.

Who is considered a PCBU?

 PCBUs will generally be a business entity, however the term PCBU is quite broad, and encompasses employers, principals and any person in charge of a place of work.

Types of PCBUs that are organisations may include, but are not limited to:

  • public and private companies
  • associations
  • trustees which are companies
  • local authorities (municipal corporations or councils)

Types of PCBUs who are individuals may include:

  • sole traders
  • the self-employed
  • individual trustees
  • committee members of unincorporated associations

However, a person who is only involved in the business as a worker or officer, is not considered a PCBU. People who are directors or are in a managerial position are considered Officers under the health and safety legislation, and as such have separate and specific duties.

A PCBU does not include volunteer associations or occupiers of a home who engages another person to solely do residential work.

What are the duties of a PCBU?

A PCBU must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicably, the health and safety of workers and visitors who are employed or undertaking work for the business. They must take measures to ensure that workers and other persons are not put at risk from the work they are required to carry out.

A PCBU’s primary duty of care includes ensuring as far as is reasonably practicable:

  • a healthy and safe work environment (eg fire exits and workplace monitoring)
  • safe plant and structures and systems of work (eg machinery guards and PPE)
  • safe use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances (eg chemical handling procedures)
  • adequate welfare facilities (eg bathrooms)
  • information, instruction, training and supervision in relation to conduct of work (eg desk set up)
  • monitoring the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace

PCBU must also hold regular open consultations with their employees.

What is the difference between a PCBU and an Officer?

Officers are directors of persons undertaking a business or undertaking, or who are involved in the government decisions that significantly impact a business. They have a duty to ensure that their business complies with its health and safety obligations.

Officers have due diligence to take reasonable steps to:

  • acquire health and safety knowledge
  • understand the activities undertaken and associated risks
  • ensure the business uses resources and processes to manage risk
  • ensure the business collects information to monitor potential risks
  • provide appropriate resources and processes essential for the business to achieve compliance
  • have objective and verifiable records of the provision and use of the above elements.

The changes to health and safety legislation now mean that Officers can be held liable and convicted of a breach of due diligence, even if the PCBU has not been charged with an offence.

As the leading workplace relations specialist, Employsure can help simply your obligations to your employees’ health and safety. Call us today on 0800 675 700.

About Employsure.

Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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