PCBU and the Duty to Co-operate

As was discussed last time the PCBU has a number of duties when operating under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.  Including, but not limited to, the duty to Consult, the duty to Co-operate and the duty to Co-ordinate.

Consult, Co-operate, Co-ordinate

As with all matters regarding the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 all obligations and duties are to be take into consideration the principle of what is “reasonably practicable”. For PCBU’s that need to consult with each other it is likely that a number of factors will be taken into consideration when determining matters between respective PCBU’s.  They may include but are not limited to:

  • any contractual arrangements between the parties;
  • the nature of the PCBUs’ operations (i.e. whether they share worksites, operations, etc.); and
  • the relative control and influence each of the PCBUs have over the work, workers and workplace, timing and availability.

Note also that this does not mean each PCBU has to become an expert in the other PCBU’s work.

Duty-to-CooperateIn a contracting situation, the principal will still have to satisfy itself that the contactor has the skills, qualifications and expertise for the job.  Assuming this is the case, the principal can usually rely on the contractor’s expertise in doing his or her job.

PCBUs with more influence and control over a workplace or workers may have to do a little more than those with less influence and control.  However, no one is entirely off the hook. The duty to Consult, the duty to Co-operate and the duty to Co-ordinate fall on each PCBU separately when multiple PCBU’s are working together


The joint obligations set upon PCBUs to Consult, Co-operate and Co-ordinate can be beneficial to all PCBUs involved.  For example, certain PCBUs on site will be better placed to identify risks that other PCBUs might not be aware of.  Similarly, some PCBUs will have the ‘know-how’ to deal with certain hazards (e.g. equipment or processes).

In some situations, where worksites are shared, co-operation could save costs because businesses can potentially avoid duplication.  Of course, this is not about PCBUs contracting out their own duties under HSWA; each PCBU is still required to meet its own obligations.  However, PCBUs are expected to enter into reasonable arrangements with other PCBUs to ensure that risks are collectively managed.

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