Home Workplace Health and Safety WHS Duties in a Contractual Chain

WHS Duties in a Contractual Chain

by Digital Mayne Media

Safe Work Australia has published WHS information for PCBUs and workers who are working as part of a contractual chain.

Did you know that an individual contractor or a self-employed person can be both a worker who is owed work health and safety (WHS) duties, and a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) who may owe WHS duties to themselves and to other workers?

Safe Work Australia has published WHS information for PCBUs and workers who are working as part of a contractual chain.

The fact sheet provides an understanding of what a PCBU is and explains that an individual contractor can be both a PCBU and a worker. Understanding this will help PCBUs within a contractual chain uphold their WHS obligations and consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other PCBUs with whom they share a duty.

Contracting is when a business engages another business to carry out work under contract. A contractual chain refers to the situation where, in relation to the same project or work matter, there are multiple contractors and subcontractors. There can be several levels in a contractual chain. For example, a client may engage a head contractor to deliver a logistics project. The head contractor may engage contractors to undertake parts of the project, and these contractors may engage subcontractors to carry out particular activities that the contractor is to deliver. It is good practice to understand if you are part of a contractual chain as it will help you understand who you may owe WHS duties to and who may owe you a duty of care and allow for necessary consultation about these duties.

The primary duty holder under the model WHS laws is a PCBU. The term PCBU covers a broad range of modern work relationships and business structures. A PCBU can be an employer, a sole trader, self-employed person, company or corporation, association or government.

As a PCBU you have a duty under WHS laws to ensure the health and safety of workers and others who may be at risk from work carried out at the workplace. You must:
• eliminate risks so far as is reasonably practicable, or if this is not possible, minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable
• provide and maintain a work environment that is without risk to the health and safety of workers
• provide adequate and accessible facilities for the welfare of workers to carry out their work, and
• give workers the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to do their job safely and without risks to health.

PCBUs may also have other duties in addition to their primary duty of care. This includes duties relating to the management and control of workplaces, duties relating to the design, manufacture and import of plant and substances, duties to consult, and duties that apply to principal contractors on construction projects that involve construction work of $250,000 or more.

For more information about who may be a PCBU and their duties visit safeworkaustralia.gov.au/resources-and-publications/guidancematerials/what-person-conductingbusiness-or-undertaking, and refer tosafeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/modelcodes-practice/model-code-practice-howmanage-work-health-and-safety-risks

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