PCBUs and officers: who's who in your workplace?

PCBUs and officers: who

By Gaby Grammeno on 17 July 2018 Is our chief executive officer considered the PCBU for work health and safety purposes?

This question was recently sent to our Ask an Expert service.

Q Our organisation is located on an entire floor of a office building. Our staff includes section managers, general managers, a CFO and CEO, and directors as board members. Would the CEO be considered the PCBU? And would the directors be officers under work health and safety legislation? 

A Under work health and safety laws, the PCBU – ‘person conducting the business or undertaking’ – is the business entity conducting the activities of the business or undertaking. It can be a company or organisation, an association, the partners (collectively) in a partnership, a government department or authority, an independent school or university, or a sole trader. The PCBU is not an individual employed by a business entity. The PCBU is only an individual person in the case of a sole trader or self-employed person.

CEOs, CFOs, directors, board members, general managers and possibly section managers could all be ‘officers’ under work health and safety legislation. An officer is anyone who makes decisions or participates in making decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part of the business or undertaking. 

Officers of a PCBU must exercise due diligence to ensure the PCBU complies with its duties under WHS legislation. As the officer who is ultimately responsible for decisions about how business activities are conducted, the CEO’s duties are most closely identified with the duties of the PCBU. This is the case regardless of the physical location of the CEO (eg on which floor or in which building that person works). 

To the extent that responsibility for decision-making is shared with board members, directors, general managers and the CFO, these individuals also share responsibility for ensuring that the PCBU complies with its duties under the law. 

For further details, check Safe Work Australia’s interpretive guideline on the meaning of ‘PCBU’.

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