Peek-a-boo safety – Oh Dear!

The Australian Model OHS laws do not have duties and responsibilities that focus on the employer.  The focus is now on  a “person conducting a business or undertaking” or a PCBU.  In a legal seminar in Melbourne on 20 October 2009, this acronym was spoken as a “peek-a-boo”.  Throughout the next 60 minutes, prominent Australian OHS lawyers repeatedly mentioned the OHS responsibilities of the “peek-a-boos”.


If OHS law has not been taken seriously by some sectors now, there is no hope if this absurd terminology continues.

How will regulators and safety professionals “sell” safety in a small business person is described as a peek-a-boo?   If we’re lucky, the employer will think of a game played with young children.  If we are not lucky, they may think of diaphanous female lingerie tenuously constructed with ribbons.  If the employer is a goth, one may get away with a cool reference to a Siouxsie & The Banshees song.

One could speak PCBU phonetically as “pissy-be-u” but even that is dubious. Please delete this term from one’s vocabulary and recommend to the Australian Government that its bill-drafters look for another acronym.

Kevin Jones

Categories business, government, law, lawyers, OHS, safety, UncategorizedTags , ,

8 thoughts on “Peek-a-boo safety – Oh Dear!”

  1. Devo\’s song Peek-A-Boo includes the following lyrics that may be relevant to the drafting of the OHS legislation but it\’s hard to know with some Devo songs:

    Laugh if you want to or say you don\’t care
    If you cannot see it you think it\’s not there
    It doesn\’t work that way

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Your article about the \”peek-a- boo\” seminar reminds me of studying for uni exams (medical science) when my study mates and I would make up silly rhymes to remind of tricky chemical rules. It is a great way to remember things! (but is best to keep these in the head to keep credibility).

    I doubt that this acronym will cause too much harm to the outcome but do agree these new laws need all the support, rather than ridicule, if they are to be successful. As Marilyn says, how hard is P C B U?

  3. That adults are using such a term is an indication of a lack of credibility in the draft laws and it seems to me and, obviously, Col, that the laws need all the credibility they can get.

    PCBU works for me

  4. Hi kevin
    I was at an AICD seminar last week when the same \”peek-a-boo\” terminology was used. Why don\’t they ( the lawyers) refer to them by the letters ie PCBU. How hard is it to say P C B U ?

  5. I was disappointed with meself I couldn\’t make the time to get in a submission for the SIA response to the proposed laws.

    On balance I gotta say, and I wish I never had to say this, I agree that it\’s back to the drafting table with the model Act for mine.

    The stuff about covering volunteer workers is awfully convoluted. It takes a long time to work out that it\’s supposed to be covering a person who works for nothing in an ordinary business (at least I think that\’s what it means in total).

    It\’s odd how this proposed national law seems to have no provision for risk control (for designers etc) to cover computer based risk control systems. Instead of providing for a law that will suit at least another 10 years of technological progress, it sticks with plant, substances and structures. But then designer, manufacturer and supplier duties extend to any plant or substance that could \”…reasonably be expected to be used in a workplace\”. Ooops, looks like the SafeWork Act now becomes the Safety of Every Bit of Plant and Substances Act: dishwashing liquid could \”reasonably be expected to be used in a workplace\”.

    It\’s one thing to expect information and risk controls to be imposed on use of stuff brought into a workplace, as most Oz OH&S Acts do now; it\’s another thing to say that design, manufacturing and supplier obligations and duties will be imposed on all those things just because they could reasonably be expected to be used in a workplace.

    And this, for mine, goes to the nub of the problem with the model laws. I think excellent toe-holds have been cut out for the community to understand that safety at work is a legitimate and ethically correct thing. I think it\’s almost impossible to predict the impact of making OH&S laws into Safety of Everything laws.

    Having been in the law drafting game for a decade and a half, I\’m certainly not going to even imply that this national law drafting gig would be easy. But why oh why didn\’t they just grab the best bits of existing laws and add anything that clearly showed the existing bits weren\’t accommodating new patterns of work or technology. With performance criteria that a \”best bit\” is one that showed positive risk reduction (i.e. low incident rates where it\’s implemented) or effective administrative results (i.e. most reasonable people where it\’s applied found it straightforward to comply with).

    No doubt the drafting team was right under the hammer. But I gotta say this draft law has all the hallmarks of a rushed job. However, in fairness to the team I think one positive thing has come out of this, and that\’s proof that the timetable wasn\’t realistic. My tip would be that the exercise proves that much more time will be needed to come up with a national OH&S Act, particularly one that\’s of a quality that it needs to be. And that quality has to be that it\’s so good other jurisidictions will be under big pressure to adopt it. This model set of laws doesn\’t do that.

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