In New Zealand, the term ‘PCBU’ refers to a ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’. It is a fundamental concept in health and safety law and includes all businesses (and a wide range of other organisations and people). PCBUs have a primary duty of care to protect their workers’ health and safety.

This article will set out what the PCBU concept refers to, the relationship between PCBUs and businesses, and what it means for your business.

What Is a PCBU?

There is significant confusion about the acronym PCBU. A PCBU is a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’. Despite the reference to ‘person’, a PCBU can either be a person or an organisation. In terms of health and safety law, in most cases, the PCBU will be an organisation (usually, a company or other business entity).

Specifically, the term ‘business’ in PCBU refers to any activity carried out with the intention of making a profit or financial gain. The term ‘undertaking’ refers to any activity that is non-commercial in nature. Of course, by covering commercial and non-commercial activities, PCBU is an extensive and inclusive term. For this reason, most organisations are PCBUs, and there are few exceptions.

Is My Business a PCBU?

Almost all businesses, from large corporates to small self-employed operations, are PCBUs. Hence, your business has obligations under health and safety law in New Zealand.

The only common exception (in terms of an organisation that is not a PCBU) is a volunteer organisation. The law defines a volunteer association as a group of volunteers working together for a purpose. Accordingly, none of the volunteers (or the association as a whole) employs anyone to carry out that work. For instance, volunteer associations can be involved in promoting art, culture or education. A business or company does not fit into this exemption.

What Does It Mean for My Business to Be a PCBU?

As your business is a PCBU, you will owe legal obligations under health and safety law. In particular, your business has a primary duty of care. Likewise, specific obligations flow from that primary duty of care. It is often valuable to get specialist legal advice when looking to ensure you meet your various health and safety obligations.

The primary duty of care refers to the idea that a PCBU must ensure its workers’ health and safety so far as reasonably practicable. PCBUs must also ensure that other people are not put at risk by its work activities. These people might be visitors to the workplace or members of the public who could be affected by your business’ activities.

If you are a self-employed PCBU, these obligations also apply to your work. You should ensure your own health and safety while at work so far as is reasonably practicable.

There are also specific obligations that stem from the primary duty of care owed by PCBUs. These include:

  • providing and maintaining a safe workplace (both in terms of physical and psychological health);
  • ensuring the safe use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances;
  • providing adequate facilities for the welfare of workers in carrying out work;
  • providing any information, training, instruction, or supervision that is necessary to protect all people from risks to their health and safety; and
  • monitoring the health of workers to prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace.

Key Takeaways

A PCBU is a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’. PCBUs are an essential concept under health and safety law in New Zealand. All PCBUs owe obligations to safeguard workers from risks to their health and safety while at work. Essentially, all organisations, including businesses and self-employed people, are PCBUs. There is a range of different health and safety obligations. Importantly, the primary duty of care refers to the fundamental idea that PCBUs must take reasonably practicable steps to protect workers’ health and safety.

If you have any questions about PCBUs, contact LegalVision’s New Zealand employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

FAQs

What is a PCBU?

A PCBU is a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’. While a PCBU may be an individual person or an organisation, in most cases the PCBU will be an organisation, for example, a business entity such as a company.

Are all businesses PCBUs?

Yes. The definition of PCBU is intentionally very broad, and few entities are exempt.

What are the obligations for PCBUs?

The primary duty of care refers to the idea that a PCBU must ensure its workers’ health and safety so far as reasonably practicable. There is also a range of specific obligations that stem from this primary duty of care.

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