Taking care of business

By - , Build 163

Site Safe demystifies what subbies’ responsibilities are on site with this easy-to-follow guide.

QUESTION – I’m a subbie, and I’m only on site for a couple of hours. Surely I’m not responsible for health and safety and don’t have to do any paperwork?

ANSWER – Wrong. Even if you’re a subbie who is only on site for a couple of hours, you still have health and safety responsibilities. From workers through to company directors, safety on site is now everyone’s responsibility.

Taking Sam as an example

Sam is a self-employed plasterer who often does plastering on residential renovations for his friend Bruce, a builder. Although Sam may only come on site for a few hours or days, he is still a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) and has responsibilities.

The extent of his duty will depend on how far he is able to control the risk. The more influence and control he has over the risk, the more responsibility he has. Because Sam usually shares a site with other crews or workers, he needs to be consulting with these other businesses to make sure everyone on site is kept safe.

Who is a PCBU?

Under the recent Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, clients, principals, main contractors and subcontractors are all PCBUs. Despite the name, a PCBU is not necessarily one person.

In most cases, a PCBU will be a business entity, like a company or organisation, but it could also be an individual running their own business, like a sole trader. A PCBU has the primary responsibility of care to ensure the safety of its workers and anyone affected by its work.

PCBUs must, as far as is reasonably practical:

  • have a safe site, plant, structures and ways of working
  • make sure plant, structures and substances are used, handled and stored safely
  • provide facilities for the welfare of workers, such as running water and toilets
  • provide the necessary information, training and supervision to protect people from risk
  • monitor health and workplace conditions.

As Sam is self-employed, he is also classed as a worker under the Act. This means he also has a responsibility to take reasonable care to ensure the health and safety of himself and others in the workplace.

So, what should I be doing?

Let’s take Sam. He may only be on site for a day, but he still needs to be thinking about what risks there might be and what he can do to manage them. As a minimum, Sam should do these things:

  • Meet with the main contractor before starting work to discuss the job, any risks and what to do in an emergency.
  • Complete a site-specific health and safety agreement with the main contractor, a hazardous products and substances register and a site/ job hazard risk register. The hazardous products and substances register may be the same for most of his jobs and might just need minor changes for each job.
  • Do a quick StepBack 5 × 5 to think through the job. This is just one scenario, and it is important to remember that each job is different and will require a different approach depending on the circumstances.

Not simply ticking the boxes

By talking to the main contractor and completing the agreement, Sam is helping to communicate what he is doing about safety. By completing the hazardous products and substances register and site/job hazard risk register, he is communicating what the risks of his work might be and how he will manage them on site.

Completing the right safety documentation means Sam is not just ticking the boxes but taking a systematic approach to managing risks. This reduces the chances of miscommunication and mistakes. In the event of an accident or injury, it is also evidence that he is on top of safety. In a nutshell, the job is not there to create paperwork, the paperwork is there to support the job.

Help is available to get started

If you’re wondering what to do about health and safety, a great place to start is the Site Safe website, where you’ll find a free electronic site-specific safety plan. This has many of the individual templates necessary to get a basic system in place including:

  • a hazard register
  • a task analysis and safe work method statement
  • an emergency response plan
  • a training and competency register
  • an accident and injury register
  • a hazardous products and substances register
  • an accident and incident investigation report. 

For more

Site Safe also has a free risk management guide to help in understanding and controlling risk. To download, visit www.sitesafe.org.nz.

Download the PDF

More articles about these topics

Articles are correct at the time of publication but may have since become outdated.

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