Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide a summary and general overview only. It is not intended to be, nor does it constitute, legal advice. You should seek legal advice from a barrister, solicitor (or lawyer) working in the area of occupational health and safety law before acting or relying on any of its content.

From 1 January 2012, workplace health and safety obligations in New South Wales have been governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) (‘The Act’). The Act is based on a model recommended by Safe Work Australia, which has also been adopted by most other jurisdictions to create a broadly consistent national scheme. The current legislation imposes obligations on all ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU), regardless of whether they conduct the business or undertaking alone or with others and regardless of whether the business or undertaking is for profit. Examples of PCBUs include:

  • Employers

  • Corporations

  • Associations

  • Partnerships

  • Sole traders

  • Volunteer organisations

  • Householders who have employed workers on their property

On the other hand, the following are not considered to be PCBUs:

  • Workers and officers

  • Elected members of local authorities

  • Volunteer associations

  • Strata title body corporates who are responsible for common areas used only for residential purposes

A PCBU’s primary obligation is to eliminate or minimise risks in the workplace to protect the safety of employees, customers and the public. Accordingly, the aim of the legislation is to prevent work-related incidents, illnesses and injuries. To flesh out this overarching duty, the legislation also imposes a number of more specific duties on PCBUs:

  1. To provide and maintain a safe working environment (including entrances and exits) that is without risks to the health and safety of any person;

  2. To ensure workplace equipment, materials and machinery do not pose health risks;

  3. To ensure the safe use, handling, storage and transport of substances;

  4. To provide adequate facilities for the welfare of employees (including access to washrooms, kitchens, etc.);

  5. To provide information, training or supervision to workers as required for their safety or the safety of others;

  6. To monitor the health of workers and the condition of the workplace to prevent illness or injury;

  7. To maintain any accommodation owned or under the management of the business.

In addition, a PCBU has duties to consult with other duty holders and employees to ensure that workplace health and safety issues are raised and addressed


By Sebastian De Brennan, Barrister,

© 2017 Sebastian De Brennan. Barrister at Law