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What is a PCBU?

PCBUOut with the old, in with the new

To explain what is meant by the term PCBU, it may be helpful to understand what the term replaced in previous legislation. In previous legislation, the term was simply “employer”. In the new harmonized WHS legislation, the term “employer” was replaced with “PCBU” because the latter includes several important entities that would be excluded from the definition of “employer”.

For example, a company that engages labour-hire workers, volunteers or subcontractors will likely not be considered the worker’s “employer”. If the legislation stated that the “employer” was responsible for the safety of workers, this would leave a legislative loophole where these companies were not explicitly responsible for the worker’s safety. You can see the problem, right?

Examples of new relationships covered

The term “employer” was thus changed to “PCBU” to encompass these types of company/worker relationships. Take the Primary Duty of Care s19 of the Work Health and Safety Act as an example. This section state that:

the PCBU must ensure the safety of workers it engages

This section now covers essentially all relationships where a company engages workers, including:

  • Labor hire workers
  • Work experience trainees
  • Volunteers
  • Subcontractors

Examples of PCBUs

Examples of PCBUs:

  • The owner of a business
  • A not-for-profit organization
  • The people who own a partnership
  • A self-employed person
  • A corporation (e.g. McDonalds or Coca-Cola) – these organizations gain the legal status as a “person” once they become an incorporated company
  • A government department (e.g. Education Queensland)

What is NOT a PCBU?

A person is not considered PCBU if that person is solely a worker completing work – unless that person is a sole-proprietor.

For example, the manager, the supervisor and all the workers on a construction site are not considered PCBUs. However, the person who owns the construction company IS a PCBU.

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