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Work Health and Safety Definitions

Work Health and Safety Definitions

What is the definition of Work Health and Safety?

Work Health and Safety refers to the framework of laws, regulations, policies, and practices aimed at promoting the physical, mental, and social well-being of workers in the workplace. It encompasses the identification, assessment, and mitigation of risks and hazards to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Work Health and Safety initiatives aim to create safe working environments, where employers, employees, contractors, and other stakeholders collaborate to uphold health and safety standards, comply with legal requirements, and foster a culture of safety consciousness and responsibility.

The following definitions will provide practical definitions and insights into essential Work Health and Safety terms, covering key concepts like PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) and high-risk work classifications. By understanding these terms, organizations can effectively navigate Work Health and Safety regulations, ensuring compliance and prioritizing the safety of their workforce and operational integrity.

Meaning Of PCBU

PCBU stands for Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking. This might seem like a confusing term, but it is quite simple. In the majority of cases, a PCBU will simply be the owner of the business. Under the old OHS legislation, the term used was “Employer”. However, this term was less than ideal because it didn’t cover some circumstances – for example, where a business owner engaged volunteers or subcontractors. In this case, the workers were not “employed” by the owner and were thus not subject to the OHS legislation. To include a wider range of working relationships, the primary duty of care was updated from: ‘Employers who employ employees’ to ‘PCBUs who engage workers’.

According to WHS legislation, a person conducts a business or undertaking if they engage in any form of business activity, whether individually or collectively with others, regardless of whether the activity is pursued for profit or not. This includes partnerships, unincorporated associations, and any form of organized activity aimed at achieving a specific purpose or outcome.

Meaning of Worker

A person is a worker if they carry out work in any capacity for a person conducting a business or undertaking, including work as—

  • an employee; or
  • a contractor or subcontractor; or
  • an employee of a contractor or subcontractor; or
  • an employee of a labor-hire company who has been
  • assigned to work in the person’s business or undertaking; or
  • an outworker; or
  • an apprentice or trainee; or
  • a student gaining work experience; or
  • a volunteer.

Meaning of Workplace

A workplace is a place where work is carried out for a business or undertaking and includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work.

A place includes:

  • a vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other mobile structure; and
  • any waters and any installation on land, on the bed of any waters or floating on any waters.

Reasonably Practicable

The term ‘reasonably practicable’ denotes actions that are or were reasonably feasible to implement at a given time to ensure the establishment of adequate health and safety measures. This consideration encompasses various relevant factors, including:
  • the likelihood of the hazard or risk occurring
  • the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or risk
  • knowledge about the hazard or risk, and ways of minimizing or eliminating the risk
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk, and
  • after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Applying a risk management process helps to determine what is reasonably practicable. Risk management involves a systematic process to:

  • identify hazards associated with the activity or environment
  • if necessary, assess the risks associated with the hazards
  • identify and implement available and suitable control measures to eliminate or minimise the risks
  • review the effectiveness of the control measures.

High-Risk Work

The term High-Risk Work could refer to either of the following tasks:
  • High-Risk Work (requiring HRW License), and
  • High-Risk Construction Work

High-Risk Work (requiring HRW license) is outlined in Part 4.5 of the Work Health and Safety regulations and includes tasks like dogging / rigging, scaffolding (over 4m) and forklift operation. The full list of what is classed as High-Risk Work is outlined within schedule 3 of the WHS regulations. There are a variety of legal requirements for these tasks however the main requirement is that the person conducting the tasks needs to have the appropriate HRW License. The only time a person can legally complete these tasks without a license is if they are enrolled in the relevant course and are under the supervision of someone who holds the required license.

The other type of “High-Risk Work” is more accurately called “High-Risk Construction Work” and is outlined within section 291 of the Work Health and Safety regulations. The following tasks are all listed within this section:

  • involves a risk of a person falling more than 2m; or
  • is carried out on a telecommunication tower; or
  • involves the demolition of an element of a structure that is load-bearing or otherwise related to the physical integrity of the structure; or
  • involves, or is likely to involve, the disturbance of asbestos; or
  • involves structural alterations or repairs that require temporary support to prevent collapse; or
  • is carried out in or near a confined space; or
  • is carried out in or near—
    • a shaft or trench with an excavated depth greater than 1.5m; or
    • a tunnel; or
  • involves the use of explosives; or
  • is carried out on or near pressurised gas distribution mains or piping; or
  • is carried out on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines; or
  • is carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services; or
  • is carried out in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere; or
  • involves tilt-up or precast concrete; or
  • is carried out on, in or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or another traffic corridor that is in use by traffic other than pedestrians; or
  • is carried out in an area at a workplace in which there is any movement of a powered mobile plant; or
  • is carried out in an area in which there are artificial extremes of temperature; or
  • is carried out in or near water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning; or
  • involves diving work.

These jobs require that a competent person complete the task and that a Safe Work Method Statement be completed for the job.

Category 1 Offence

A person commits a category 1 offence if:
  • the person has a health and safety duty; and
  • the person, without reasonable excuse, engages in conduct that exposes an individual to whom that duty is owed to a risk of death or serious injury or illness; and
  • the person is reckless as to the risk to an individual of death or serious injury or illness.

Category 2 Offence

A person commits a category 2 offence if:
  • the person has a health and safety duty; and
  • the person fails to comply with that duty; and
  • the failure exposes an individual to a risk of death or serious injury or illness.

Category 3 Offence

A person commits a category 3 offence if:
  • the person has a health and safety duty; and
  • the person fails to comply with that duty.

Health and Safety Representative (HSR)

HSR, in relation to a worker, means the health and safety representative elected under part 5 of the Work Health and Safety Act.

Improvement Notices

An improvement notice must state:
  • that the inspector believes the person:
    • is contravening a provision of this Act; or
    • has contravened a provision in circumstances that make it likely that the contravention will continue or be repeated; and
  • the provision the inspector believes is being, or has been, contravened; and
  • briefly, how the provision is being or has been, contravened; and
  • The day by which the person is required to remedy the contravention or likely contravention.

Notifiable Incident

In the realm of Work Health and Safety (WHS), a notifiable incident signifies an event mandating reportage to the appropriate authorities. Within WHS protocols, the following scenarios necessitate reporting:
  • causes the death of a person; or
  • causes a serious injury or illness of a person; or
  • is a dangerous incident.


  • any machinery, equipment, appliance, container, implement and tool; and
  • any component of any of those things; and
  • anything fitted or connected to any of those things.

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