The WHS Act requires persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, workers and other persons are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
PCBUs must take a systematic approach to managing risk with the aim of eliminating the risk, or if this is not possible, minimising the risk as far as is reasonably practicable.
Finance, on behalf of the Commonwealth, is responsible as the PCBU in relation to work undertaken at the Parliamentarian’s electorate office(s) and work undertaken by workers for the Parliamentarian at other locations. It is important to note there may be overlapping PCBUs in some MOP(S) Act employees’ workplaces. For example, the Department of Parliamentary Services and chamber departments may also share PCBU responsibilities for MOP(S) Act employees at Parliament House.
Finance must also carry out the Commonwealth's PCBU duties in relation to some aspects of work undertaken by MOP(S) Act employees. However, as there are many aspects of a parliamentarian's undertaking that Finance has limited capacity to influence or control, the parliamentarian as an officer will have primary responsibility under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) for those matters.
What are the Commonwealth’s duties as a PCBU?
The primary duty of care of the Commonwealth as a PCBU is set out in section 19 of the WHS Act.
To discharge the Commonwealth’s PCBU duties, Finance is required to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide adequate training, information and instruction to ensure that each worker is safe from injury and risks to health. Finance has put in place systems designed to meet its duties under the WHS Act to support Parliamentarians and MOP(S) Act employees to maintain a safe and healthy workplace, by developing and supporting WHS systems to assist Parliamentarians and workers to:
- provide and maintain a work environment and eliminate or minimise risks to the health and safety of workers and others, so far as is reasonably practicable
- provide workers with policies and procedures, training and supervision to do their job safely and without risks to their health, as far as practicable
- ensure systems are in place to enable incidents to be reported
- take appropriate action to respond and manage incidents; and
- consult with health and safety representatives and workers about health and safety issues that are, or likely to be, directly affecting them, and
Worker is defined broadly under the WHS Act as anyone who carries out work in any capacity for a PCBU. This may include parliamentarians themselves, MOP(S) Act employees, volunteers, and contractors.
A PCBU must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking. In the context of a parliamentarian's work, other persons might include, but not be limited to: constituents, journalists at a press conference, family members, party officials, demonstrators, or persons attending a public gathering organised by the parliamentarian’s office.