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Toolbox Topic: Who’s responsible for Health & Safety?

Everyone plays a part in keeping the workplace safe. If you come across something that doesn’t look right its up to YOU to do something about it.

So let’s break things down… who’s responsible for what?

Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU)

We as the PCBU have the primary duty of care and are responsible for the Health and Safety of anyone working for us (including Officers, Contractors, Volunteer Workers and Workers) as well as those within the vicinity of the work we are carrying out or by using the products and services we provide (including Customers and Visitors).

Obligations of the PCBU in the workplace; So far as is reasonably practicable:

  • providing and maintaining a work environment, plant and systems of work that are without risks to health and safety
  • ensuring the safe use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances
  • providing adequate facilities at work for the welfare of Workers, including ensuring access to those facilities
  • providing information, training, instruction or supervision necessary to protect Workers and others from risks to their health and safety
  • monitoring the health of Workers and the conditions at the workplace for the purpose of preventing illness or injury.


  • PCBUs do not owe a duty to any person who is at the workplace for an unlawful purpose.
  • Farmers have duties as a PCBU which extend to farm buildings and structures necessary for the operation of the business or undertaking and the areas immediately surrounding them including any area where work is being carried out at that time. A farm workplace does not include the family home.

Obligations upstream of the workplace

If we design, engineer, manufacture, supply or install plant, substances or structures, we specifically have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the work we do; and what we provide to the workplace does not create health and safety risks.

These explicit duties include ensuring the plant, substances, or structures are without risk to people who:

  • use the plant, substance or structure at a workplace
  • handle the substance at a workplace
  • store the plant or substance at a workplace
  • construct the structure at a workplace
  • carry out any reasonably foreseeable activity (inspection, cleaning, maintenance or repair) at a workplace
  • are at or in the vicinity of a workplace and who are exposed to the plant, substance or structure at the workplace.

Obligations to other PCBU’s (Shared responsibilities)

As a PCBU, we often work alongside other PCBU’s; or contract to or contract together with other PCBU’s. We have a duty to everyone affected by our work and workplace, not just those that work for us – therefore we will consult, co-operate and co-ordinate activities to meet the shared responsibilities between the PCBU’s involved.


Individuals in our organisation who hold a senior governance role or who exercise significant influence over the management and decision making in our business are deemed to be ‘Officers’ under the Act, and must exercise due diligence to ensure that we are complying with our duties.

  • Examples of Officers (not limited to):
  • Company Directors
  • Partners
  • Board Members
  • CEO

These Officers must ensure they are taking safety seriously and that they are asking the questions that allow them to fully understand the hazards and risks within the operations of our company, assessing incidents, injuries and near misses, ensuring we have the resources and act accordingly. These are all examples of their due diligence. 

These include taking reasonable steps to:

  • understand work health and safety matters and keep up-to-date on changes
  • gain an understanding of the operations of the organisation and the hazards and risks generally associated with those operations
  • ensure the PCBU has appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise those risks
  • ensure the PCBU has appropriate processes for receiving information about incidents, hazards and risks, and for responding to that information
  • ensure there are processes for complying with any duty, and that these are implemented
  • verify that these resources and processes are in place and being used.

Note: Certain officers are exempt from prosecution if they fail in their due diligence duty:

  • elected members of local authorities (councillors) under the Local Electoral Act 2001
  • members of local or community boards elected or appointed under the Local Electoral Act 2001.
  • members of school boards of trustees appointed or elected under the Education Act 1989.


The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 also takes into consideration Workers and the responsibilities they have to themselves and others in the workplace. This includes taking reasonable care of their own safety, ensuring their acts or omissions don’t harm others, complying with instructions and cooperating with the policies and procedures we have in place.

Examples of Workers:

  • a Worker; or
  • a Contractor or subcontractor; or
  • a Worker of a Contractor or subcontractor; or
  • a Worker of a labour hire company who has been assigned to work in the business or undertaking; or
  • an outworker (including a homeworker); or
  • an apprentice or a trainee; or
  • a person gaining work experience or undertaking a work trial; or
  • a volunteer Worker; or
  • a person of a prescribed class.


Volunteers that work for us regularly, on an ongoing basis and who are integral to our operations are deemed to be Volunteer Workers. We have the same duties to those Volunteers as we do our Workers. Refer to duties under Workers.

The act does not cover volunteers that work on a casual basis (Casual Volunteers) who engage in the following activities

  • Participation in a fundraising activity
  • Assistance with sports or recreation for an educational institute, sports or recreation club
  • Assistance with activities for an educational institution outside the premises of the educational institution.
  • Providing care for another person in the volunteer’s home.
  • We have the same duties to those Casual Volunteers as we do our Customers or Visitors.


  • A volunteer organisation is an organisation that has no paid Workers (only volunteers). It is not a PCBU; and therefore the association and the volunteers that work under it are not covered by the bill.
  • If the volunteer organisation has at least one paid Worker, then the organisation is deemed to be a PCBU and is subject to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.


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