Overlapping PCBU duties – what is expected?

General / 25 May 2017
Overlapping PCBU duties – what is expected?

PCBUs have a primary duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of workers, and others at the worksite, is not put at risk by its work.  But what happens on a building site where multiple contractors and subcontractors are working at the same time.  Who does this duty fall to?  Simply put, both risk and responsibility lies with each PCBU, and overlapping duties arise.

Each PCBU has a duty to ensure the safety, so far as is reasonably practicable, of not only their workers but of anyone else on site who may be affected by any potential risks that each PCBU creates by its work.  This does not mean that each PCBU needs to duplicate hazard identification and risk management steps – a collaborative approach involving consultation, co-operation and co-ordination with each other is required, to ensure the duties collectively are being met.

PCBUs should consider not only their immediate work tasks but also how they will be affected by another PCBU carrying out works on the same site, and in turn, what effect their work will have on the other PCBUs.

Using first aid as an example, provided PCBUs consult and co-operate regarding first aid requirements, by successful collaboration, agreement may be reached about adequate availability of first aid kits and first aiders being provided by a single PCBU on site rather than duplicated and required for each PCBU.

All PCBUs need to meet their duties by:

Planning ahead and identifying how the work they do could affect other PCBUs, workers and other people;
Identifying health and safety hazards and associated risks that need managing;
Consulting other PCBUs to agree how to control each risk;
Consulting other PCBUs to decide which PCBUs are best placed to control each risk;
Putting in place those controls;
Clearly defining roles, responsibilities and actions, and communicating about these; and
Continuing to communicate, co-operate, and co-ordinate with other PCBUs throughout the work, and carrying out reasonable and proportionate monitoring, to make sure good health and safety is maintained.
Following these steps and keeping accurate records will assist PCBUs to meet their duties and to demonstrate the steps taken to consult, co-operate and co-ordinate with other PCBUs.  The extent of a PCBU’s duties is limited by their ability to influence and control the matter and what is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.  It is expected that PCBUs leading contracting chains set the standard in terms of leadership and promotion of good health and safety practices throughout the chain.  The intent of a collaborative approach is that larger, better resourced PCBUs will assist smaller PCBUs to build capacity and better discharge their duties, making worksite health and safety management simpler, and creating a safer worksite overall.

WorkSafe NZ’s website has useful, reader friendly information on how to work out the extent of each PCBU’s duty, and we can provide advice about what this means for your business.

Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law and health and safety topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.

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