The harmonised Work Health and Safety Act has been adopted by some Australian States and as such, may result in the University of Western Australia being approached to participate in the planning of tasks or activities with shared responsibility as required by the Act. This legislation provides coverage which extends beyond the traditional employer/employee relationship to include a variety of work arrangements. It refers to non-transferable work health and safety duties related to specific roles and standards of care associated with specific activities in a workplace. The University will be considered to be a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) having the primary duty of care and commitment to demonstrate that everything ‘reasonably practicable’ has been done to ensure provision of safe workplaces. This commitment extends to the health and safety of anyone who carries out tasks or activities under the auspices of the University. A PCBU, through its Officers, has a duty to consult with workers at all levels of the organisation and with other PCBUs involved in shared tasks or activities.
Senior leaders and managers of all involved PCBUs must promote and foster open lines of communication and consultation both at organisational level and with workers. This can be achieved by ensuring effective consultation processes are fundamental and integral by being built into the organisation through its systems, structures, policies, procedures and practices. The University undertakes a variety of activities which may include contributing individuals or resources with degrees of involvement and influence which may cause them to be considered to be PCBUs with shared responsibilities for health and safety. This could include:
- Activities where University staff or students carry out tasks or activities off-campus at the workplaces of other organisations
- Workers from other organisations (such as affiliated organisations) working at UWA controlled workplaces
- Contractors working on-campus or at off-campus sites under the control of the University
- Test of shared PCBU responsibilities
- Arrangements for shared PCBU responsibilities
- Creating the working relationship between contributing PCBUs
Test of shared PCBU responsibilities
It is important to determine whether you are the only Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) or whether there are others involved in the task or activity with shared health and safety responsibilities. This can be accomplished by considering the place at which the work will be carried out and whether there are overlapping responsibilities for health and safety between multiple contributors, as follows:
- Does more than a single contributor influence or control the work?
- Does more than a single contributor affect work health and safety in relation to the work?
- Are there circumstances (when and where) the activities of multiple contributors interact?
- In cases where there are multiple contributors, could any single contributor compromise or support the other contributors involved?
- Do multiple contributors need to share information, documentation, mutual agreements or workplaces to enable the work to be carried out?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes”, then it is likely that the work will involve multiple PCBUs and will require that arrangements are to be made to ensure appropriate consultation and communication.
Questions which, if answered affirmatively, confirm that PCBUs have additional upstream duties are:
- Do they manage or control workplaces or fixtures, fittings or plant at workplaces?
- Do they design, manufacture, import or supply plant, substances or structures for workplaces?
- Do they install, construct or commission plant or structures for workplaces?
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Arrangements for shared PCBU responsibilities
The next consideration, having established that multiple PCBUs will be involved, is to establish appropriate lines of consultation and communication to enable discussion and agreement regarding the degree of influence of each contributing PCBU. They must establish an effective system of management and agree on a compliant system of health and safety management be operated during the task or activity. An individual must be appointed as the main point of contact for the contributing PCBUs. The person best placed for this role is normally the supervisor at the workplace. Useful questions to consider are:
- To what extent does each contributor affect, influence and control the workplace itself and the tasks and activities carried out by their contributing workers?
- What information does each contributor need to share with other parties?
- What information does each contributor require from other parties?
- How can it be demonstrated that consultation/communications occurred and could the involvement of your local safety committee assist in the development and coordination of the necessary arrangements?
- How will the work be supervised to ensure compliance with agreements between contributing PCBUs?
- In any task or activity where the University is considered to be a PCBU with shared responsibilities, coordinating contacts shall be established with other involved PCBUs.
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Creating the working relationship between contributing PCBUs
Steps to set up arrangments with other PCBUs:
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- A description of the task or activity must be created in enough detail to enable all contacts and degrees of control to be established.
- Lines of communication must be established with every PCBUs being able to communicate freely with all other PCBUs.
- Create a table of contributing PCBUs which must be must be provided to every PCBU to ensure the ability to consult and communicate effectively.
- The University should take a proactive role in convening meetings with PCBU representatives to discuss all aspects of the proposed task or activity.
- The University must acquire a complete understanding of any off-campus working environment, the safety culture that exists there and be satisfied that agreed methods for management of health and safety are appropriate and meet expected standards.
- When agreement has been reached on the degree of influence over activities in the workplace, a single point of reference within the agreed controlling organisation must be appointed as the primary conduit for control of communication and dissemination of related information to the other PCBUs.
- A written record of all formal PCBUs communication must be created in the form of meetings minutes and other related documentation.
- It is vital to ensure that all contributing PCBUs are well informed and consulted as appropriate to the type and duration of the activity.
- The primary contact must provide regular written updates to all other PCBUs to enable them to keep track of progress of the work plan (this could take the form of email updates) and meetings minutes.