Self-employed person can be deemed as worker and be offered WHS duties under new laws

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?

As a PCBU, the standard you must meet to fulfil your WHS duties is to do what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to ensure the health and safety of workers and others by:

  • First – you must first try and eliminate the risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Second – If that is not possible, you must minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Reasonably practicable means that you must meet the standard of behaviour expected of a reasonable person in your (the duty holder’s) position and who is also required to comply with the same duty of care.

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

A contractual chain refers to the situation where, in relation to the same project or work matter, there are multiple contractors and subcontractors. A contractual chain is common in industries such as building and construction, road transport and events management.

This may apply to fishing where share-fishing arrangements are in place, or owners contract skippers who then contract the crew.

A fact sheet providing an understanding of what a PCBU is, and explaining that an individual contractor can be both a PCBU and a worker under a chain of contractual arrangements, can be found here.

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.