What is a PCBU?


In New Zealand, the term ‘PCBU’ refers to a ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’. It is a fundamental concept in health and safety law and includes all businesses (and a wide range of other organisations and people). PCBUs have a primary duty of care to protect their workers’ health and safety.

What Is a PCBU?

The term PCBU has created significant confusion. A PCBU is a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’. Despite the reference to ‘person’, a PCBU can either be a person or an organisation. In terms of health and safety law, in most cases, the PCBU will be an organisation (usually, a company or other business entity).

Specifically, the term ‘business’ in PCBU refers to any activity carried out with the intention of making a profit or financial gain. The term ‘undertaking’ refers to any activity that is non-commercial in nature. Of course, by covering commercial and non-commercial activities, PCBU is an extensive and inclusive term. For this reason, most organisations are PCBUs, and there are few exceptions.

Is My Business a PCBU?

Almost all businesses, from large corporates to small self-employed operations and sole traders, are PCBUs. Hence, your business has obligations under health and safety law in New Zealand.

The only common exception (in terms of an organisation that is not a PCBU) is a volunteer organisation. The law defines a volunteer association as a group of volunteers working together for a purpose. Accordingly, none of the volunteers (or the association as a whole) employs anyone to carry out that work. For instance, volunteer associations can be involved in promoting art, culture or education. A business or company does not fit into this exemption.

What Does It Mean for My Business to Be a PCBU?

As your business is a PCBU, you will owe legal obligations under health and safety law. In particular, your business has a primary duty of care. Likewise, specific obligations flow from that primary duty of care. It is often valuable to get specialist legal advice when looking to ensure you meet your various health and safety obligations.

The primary duty of care refers to the idea that a PCBU must ensure its workers’ health and safety so far as reasonably practicable. PCBUs must also ensure that other people are not put at risk by its work activities. These people might be visitors to the workplace or members of the public who could be affected by your business activities.

There are also specific obligations that stem from the primary duty of care owed by PCBUs. These include:

  • providing and maintaining a safe workplace (both in terms of physical and psychological health);
  • ensuring the safe use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances;
  • providing adequate facilities for the welfare of workers in carrying out work;
  • providing any information, training, instruction, or supervision that is necessary to protect all people from risks to their health and safety; and
  • monitoring the health of workers to prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace.

As An Officer am I a PCBU?

No an officer (e.g. chief executive, board member or director) is not a PCBU but the Officer has must exercise due diligence by taking reasonable steps to:

  • Keep up to date about work health and safety matters.
  • Understand the nature of the hazards and risks associated with the organisations operations.
  • Ensure the organisation has resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks.
    Ensure appropriate and timely processes for receiving and responding to incidents, hazards and risks.
  • Ensure there are processes for complying with any duty.
  • Verify that health and safety processes are in place and being used.