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With the new Work, Health and Safety (OHS Harmonisation) Act about to become effective in the next couple of months it is essential that those working in every industry understand not only the rules and regulations that will be put into place but, also the role that everyone has in terms so making sure that the work environment is safe. To do that the OHS has changed some terms to make understanding who has responsibilities under the new regulations clear. One such term is a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU).

In the past, old regulations often used the term employer but, that term often lead to misconceptions regarding exactly what duties and obligations were assigned to whom. In order to clear up any misunderstanding the term PCBU has taken the place of the term employer. Under the Work Health and Safety act a PCBU is any person or entity that conducts a business or undertaking. This may be an individual, a corporation, or a charitable organization.

The PCBU has the primary duty of care to ensure as far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of all workers that it engages.  However, it is the duty of each officer of the PCBU to ensure that the PCBU complies with those duties and obligations.

Here are some of the duties of the PCBU.

  • The PCBU must share all relevant information on health and safety with the workers.
  • The PCBU must provide workers with an opportunity to share their views and express concerns about safety issues with the PCBU and it’s officers.
  • The PCBU must advise workers of relevant outcomes in a timely manner.
  • The PCBU must involve any relevant health and safety representatives in the process.

In determining what is reasonably practicable the PCBU and it’s officers should consider

The likelihood of a risk or hazard occurring. Would a reasonable person concerned about safety be able to foresee this particular risk or hazard is likely to occur if some preventive measure is not taken?

  • The degree of harm that may arise from that risk or hazard
  • What the person knows or should know about this risk or hazard and ways of minimizing or eliminating the risk.

The Availability of Ways of Minimizing the Risk

Whether the cost of eliminating or reducing the risk is disproportionate to the risk itself.

The PCBU needs to look at all possible health or safety issues from the point of view of what a reasonable person could predict would happen and how they would try to minimize the dangers. The PCBU is not expected to think of or consider those hazards that are extremely unlikely to occur only those which a reasonable person would “know” are likely to occur.

The Main thing to remember is that while the Person conducting a business or undertaking has the primary responsibility for following all duties and obligations that it is the officers of the PCBU that must be responsible for seeing that the PBCU complies with those duties and obligations or they can incur personal fines and penalties whether or not an incident actually takes place.

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