Definitions of PCBUs and workers

What is a PCBU?

A 'person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU) is a legal term under WHS laws for individuals, businesses or organisations that are conducting business. A person who performs work for a PCBU is considered a worker.

Types of PCBUs can include:

  • public and private companies
  • partners in a partnership 
  • sole traders and self employed people 
  • government departments and authorities 
  • associations if they have one or more employees
  • local government councils 
  • independent schools
  • cooperatives
  • universities

As a PCBU you must meet your obligations, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the health and safety of workers and other people like visitors and volunteers.

These obligations include:

  • safe systems of work
  • safe use of plant, structures and substances
  • adequate facilities for the welfare of workers
  • notification and recording of workplace incidents
  • adequate information, training, instruction and supervision
  • compliance with requirements under the Work Health and Safety Regulation
  • effective systems for monitoring the health of workers and workplace conditions
  • a safe work environment
  • maintain the premises used for accommodation for workers, if required

A PCBU has further obligations if involved in specific kinds of activities like:

  • the management and control of workplaces, or fixtures, fittings or plant at workplaces
  • the design, manufacture, import or supply of plant, substances or structures
  • installation, construction or commissioning of plant or structures.

PCBUs must also have meaningful and open consultation about work health and safety with workers, health and safety representatives, and health and safety committees.

As a PCBU you must also consult, cooperate and coordinate with other PCBUsif you share duties.  

Primary duty of care

As a PCBU you have a primary duty of care to ensure workers and others are not exposed to a risk to their health and safety.

You owe this duty of care when as a PCBU you:

  • direct or influence work carried out by a worker
  • engage or cause to engage a worker to carry out work (including through sub-contracting)
  • have management or control of a workplace

You must also ensure that the health and safety of others is not put at risk from work done as part of the business.

What is a worker?

Anyone who performs paid work in any capacity for an employer, business or organisation is considered a worker. However the term can also include unpaid workers such as volunteers or work experience students.

You're considered a worker if you're an:

  • employee
  • trainee, apprentice or work experience student
  • outworker, contractor or sub contractor
  • employee of a contractor or sub contractor
  • employee of a labour hire company

Our PCBUs, workers and officers fact sheet has more information.