The PCBU has a primary duty of care and must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of:

  • workers they have engaged, or caused to be engaged
  • workers carrying out work who are directed by or can be influenced by them, eg contractors
  • anyone else who may be affected by the work carried out, eg visitors and the public.

PCBUs should refer to the relevant Codes of Practice and Australian Standards for practice guidance on upholding their duties.

Other than PCBUs, duty holders may include:

  • anyone with management or control of a workplace
  • designers of plant substances or structures
  • manufacturers of plant, substances or structures
  • importers of plant, substances or structures
  • suppliers of plant, substances or structures
  • installers of products or plant used at work
  • workers
  • officers, and
  • other persons at the workplace.

The health and safety duty of an officer is explained further in Safe Work Australia’s Interpretative Guideline – Model Work Health and Safety Act.

Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant, structures or substances can influence the safety of products before they are used in the workplace. They have a responsibility to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that their products are without any risks to health and safety when used at a workplace.

Duty holder responsibilities

To ensure the health and safety of workers and others a PCBU must, so far as it is reasonably practicable:

  • provide and maintain of a work environment without risks to health and safety
  • provide and maintain of safe plant, equipment and structures
  • provide and maintain safe systems of work
  • provide information, instruction and training on the safe use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances
  • provide adequate facilities for the welfare of workers when carrying out work for you, including ensuring access to those facilities
  • provide any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect any person from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of your business or undertaking
  • monitor the health of workers and the conditions at the workplace for the purpose of preventing illness or injury to workers arising from the conduct of your business or undertaking
  • maintain any accommodation, where provided, so as not to expose a worker to health and safety risks.

Where a person has a duty to ensure health and safety, they are required to:

  • eliminate risks so far as is reasonably practicable, or
  • if this is not possible, minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

As well as the primary duty of care a PCBU also has a duty to:

  • consult with other duty holders, and
  • consult workers and their representatives.

In regards to health and safety duties:

  • they are not transferrable
  • they cannot be contracted out to another party, such as a subcontractor
  • a person can have more than one duty (eg duties as a manufacturer as well as duties as a PCBU to workers and others)
  • they can be shared, so more than one person can have the same duty at the same time.

A PCBU found in breach of their health and safety duties could be prosecuted and subject to significant penalties.

Page last updated 18 March 2020