In New Zealand, every Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (a PCBU) must abide by certain regulations in order to ensure the safety of its workers. The term PCBU includes sole traders, self-employed persons, not-for-profit organisations, ordinary businesses and more.

If you are a PCBU, you will have particular health and safety regulations that you are required to operate under as applied by the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Generally speaking, this Act sets out a “primary duty of care” for PCBUs.

The primary duty of care requires that every PCBU must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of their workers and associated persons. It also requires that the PCBU ensure that the health and safety of other persons, such as customers or the general public, is not put at risk as a result of the work that they carry out.

What does reasonably practicable mean?

In order to determine what is reasonably practicable for your business, you must first identify and consider all of the risks and hazards in your workplace. You must then determine what health and safety measures it is possible for your PCBU to undertake to prevent those risks from being realised.

The measures available to you will be different depending on the size of your particular PCBU and the type of work you undertake.

You must then consider what is reasonable in your particular circumstances. You must ask what you can actually undertake given your business resources. This will include ensuring that you are protecting your workers and other persons as far as reasonable in your circumstances.

Factors which must be considered in this undertaking is the size of the risk and the severity of the potential harm, the availability of risk prevention measures and how suitable they are for your business, and the costs of the measure compared to the seriousness of the risk.

What is reasonably practicable will always depend on your circumstances, so it is important to ensure that your business is conducting thorough risk assessments and ensuring that all available risk measures are being utilised.

What do these safety measures look like?

The safety measures required will be different depending on what type of business that you operate.

For example, for a construction company that operates heavy machinery, some appropriate safety measures may be adequate training of persons operating machinery, the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE), rights of way on the construction site and proper hazard signs.

On the other hand, an administration business will require different measures. For example, fire alarms and emergency training, dressing appropriately to avoid risks of falls and injury, closing cabinets to avoid tripping, and implementing adequate mental health measures.

There are some health and safety measures which will be common for all PBCUs. However, it is important to consider exactly what hazards and risks are prevalent in your workplace, and implement the most effective risk prevention measures available to you.

The Act also requires a PCBU to report to WorkSafe New Zealand when a “notifiable event” happens. This may include a death in the workplace, serious injury or illness, or any other notifiable incident.

There are important processes for health and safety which must be followed by all PBCUs. If you are confused about your obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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