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Terminology and Concepts
Terminology and Concepts


(Last revised 20 November 2017)

Before starting to use this resource guide, it is important to understand some general concepts and terminology and fully appreciate what is required.

Please note: The information contained in this guide sets out good practice that should be considered by event organisers. However, it is industry guidance and does not necessarily cover everything that organisers need to consider for a particular event.

With the introduction of the new WHS (Workplace Health and Safety) legislation in 2012 there has been a shift in responsibilities within the workplace. The model WHS Act and Regulation are based on a number of broad based concepts which will be detailed below.

At the time of writing, most of Australia and recently also New Zealand follow the model legislation, only Victoria and Western Australia are hanging on to now old fashioned Occupational Health and Safety legislation.

The Safety Resource Guide is primarily based around the WHS Legislation and will have separate references for VIC and WA where applicable.

1.1 Referenced documents:

Model WHS Act

Model WHS Regulation

Definitions of PCBUs and workers

1.2 What is a PCBU?

A ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU) is a legal term under WHS laws for individuals, businesses or organisations that are conducting business. A person who performs work for a PCBU is considered a worker.

Types of PCBUs can include:

  • public and private companies
  • partners in a partnership
  • sole traders and self employed people
  • government departments and authorities
  • associations if they have one or more employees
  • local government councils
  • independent schools, universities
  • cooperatives

5 Meaning of “person conducting a business or undertaking”
(1) For the purposes of this Act, a person conducts a business or undertaking:
(a) whether the person conducts the business or undertaking alone or with others, and
(b) whether or not the business or undertaking is conducted for profit or gain.

As a PCBU you must meet your obligations, as far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the health and safety of workers and other people like visitors and volunteers. These obligations include:

  • safe systems of work
  • safe use of plant, structures and substances
  • adequate facilities for the welfare of workers
  • notification and recording of workplace incidents
  • adequate information, training, instruction and supervision
  • compliance with requirements under the Work Health and Safety Regulation
  • effective systems for monitoring the health of workers and workplace conditions
  • a safe work environment


A PCBU has further obligations if involved in specific kinds of activities like:

  • the management and control of workplaces, or fixtures, fittings or plant at workplaces
  • the design, manufacture, import or supply of plant, substances or structures
  • installation, construction or commissioning of plant or structures.


PCBUs must also have meaningful and open consultation about work health and safety with workers, health and safety representatives, and health and safety committees.


As a PCBU you must also consult, cooperate and coordinate with other PCBUs if you share duties. This is one of the most overlooked expectations in the entertainment industry and something that ought to be addressed by all concerned. As a minimum you should have a reporting system in the workplace that is explained during the site induction.

For events that stretch over several days, or weeks, with multiple PCBU’s working on-site at the same time a full production consultation meeting is the recommended solution. If that is not reasonably practicable due to time or distance restrictions, the PCBU in charge of the workplace ought to review the SWMS and SOP’s from all other PCBU’s and prepare a detailed risk assessment for all stakeholders. For more detail see Chapter 2 – Risk Management and Planning.

1.3 Primary duty of care

Division 2 Primary duty of care
19 Primary duty of care
(1) A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of:
(a) workers engaged, or caused to be engaged by the person, and
(b) workers whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by the person, while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking.
(2) A person conducting a business or undertaking must 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.

As a PCBU you have a primary duty of care to ensure workers and others are not exposed to health and safety risks.

You owe this duty of care when, as a PCBU, you:

  • direct or influence work carried out by a worker
  • engage or cause to engage a worker to carry out work (including through sub-contracting)
  • have management or control of a workplace

You must also ensure that the health and safety of others is not put at risk from work done as part of the business.


1.4 Who is an Officer of the PCBU?

An officer is a person who makes decisions, or participates in making decisions, that affect the whole, or a substantial part, of a business or undertaking and has the capacity to significantly affect the financial standing of the business or undertaking. If a person is responsible only for implementing those decisions, they are not considered an officer. Partners of a partnership are not officers but are PCBUs.

An officer of a PCBU must exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU complies with their duties under the WHS legislation. You are considered to be an officer if you are:

  • an officer within the meaning of section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001
  • an officer of the Crown within the meaning of section 247 of the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011
  • an officer of a public authority within the meaning of section 252 of the WHS Act.

In simple terms, unless you are a director or secretary of a company you are unlikely to be an officer. Whilst your function may involve approving large financial commitments, it is not enough to classify your position as that of an officer.

1.5 What is a worker?

7 Meaning of “worker”
(1) A person is a worker if the person carries out work in any capacity for a person conducting a business or undertaking, including work as:
(a) an employee, or
(b) a contractor or subcontractor, or
(c) an employee of a contractor or subcontractor, or
(d) an employee of a labour hire company who has been assigned to work in the person’s business or undertaking, or
(e) an outworker, or
(f) an apprentice or trainee, or
(g) a student gaining work experience, or
(h) a volunteer, or
(i) a person of a prescribed class.

The main reason behind the shift in terminology was to recognise the changes in the workplace, the standard employer – employee structure is being replaced by a mix of employees, contractors, part-time workers, volunteers, etc.. To ensure that everyone is covered under the current legislation, the term ‘Worker’ is now being used throughout the legislation and covers anyone who does any work in any capacity in a workplace.

Anyone who performs paid work in any capacity for an employer, business or organisation is considered a worker. However the term does also include unpaid workers such as volunteers or work experience students.

1.5.1 Workers responsibilities

28 Duties of workers
While at work, a worker must:
(a) take reasonable care for his or her own health and safety, and
(b) take reasonable care that his or her acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons, and
(c) comply, so far as the worker is reasonably able, with any reasonable instruction that is given by the person conducting the business or undertaking to allow the person to comply with this Act, and
(d) co-operate with any reasonable policy or procedure of the person conducting the business or undertaking relating to health or safety at the workplace that has been notified to workers.

In the same way that a PCBU has a duty to provide a safe place of work, workers have a duty to maintain the safety in a workplace.
Workers safety obligations to themselves and other people in the workplace include:

  • comply with instructions given in relation to work health and safety
  • use any provided personal protective equipment (PPE) and be properly trained in how to use it
  • not wilfully or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided for work health and safety at the workplace
  • not wilfully place others at risk
  • not wilfully put themselves at risk

In addition to this, workers also have a duty to attend WHS training when and where provided. Workers also have a duty to pro-actively maintain a safe place of work, that includes reporting unsafe work practices, report unsafe or poorly maintained PPE, report any hazards in the workplace as soon as they are aware of a hazard.

The PCBU has a duty to provide a reporting mechanism, see Chapter 3 – Consultation and Communication for further detail.

1.6 What is ‘Other’?

Throughout the WHS Act and Regulation you will find reference to ‘Other Persons’. Who are they?

29 Duties of other persons at the workplace
A person at a workplace (whether or not the person has another duty under this Part) must:
(a) take reasonable care for his or her own health and safety, and
(b) take reasonable care that his or her acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons, and
(c) comply, so far as the person is reasonably able, with any reasonable instruction that is given by the person conducting the business or undertaking to allow the person conducting the business or undertaking to comply with this Act.

The definition ‘Other’ applies to anyone in a workplace who doesn’t carry out any work. In the entertainment industry others can be; members of the public, guests to a function, ticketholders for a show or concert, sponsor representatives, etc.

All these people, even though they may not be in the workplace invited such as joggers jumping a fence, also have a duty of care for you and the PCBU in control of the workplace.

It is important to make sure all workers in a workplace are aware when ‘others’ enter the workplace outside operational times. Many will be unfamiliar with the bump-in / bump-out environment and may put themselves in harms’ way without realising this. Where possible and suitable, make sure ‘others’ wear distinctly different colour hi-vis vests or hard hats.


1.7 What is a workplace?

Simply put, wherever you go to do a job now becomes your workplace. And that can change to whole dynamic of the place.

8 Meaning of “workplace
(1) A workplace is a place where work is carried out for a business or undertaking and includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work.
(2) In this section, place includes:
(a) a vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other mobile structure, and
(b) any waters and any installation on land, on the bed of any waters or floating on any waters

As a PCBU you have legal responsibilities to implement health and safety practices in your workplace before you start work in a place. You need to ensure that your business doesn’t create health and safety problems for your workers, contractors, volunteers, visitors, customers or the general public.

Under Australian WHS/OH&S legislation businesses are legally obliged to:

  • provide safe work premises
  • assess risks and implement appropriate measures for controlling them
  • ensure safe use and handling of goods and substances
  • provide and maintain safe machinery and materials
  • assess workplace layout and provide safe systems of work
  • provide a suitable working environment and facilities
  • have Public Liability insurance and Workers’ Compensation insurance for your employees.

CAUTION: Be aware that if you do work in a workplace under control of others such as a venue, event site, etc. you still have the same duties. Simply put, don’t assume that because others are working in a workplace it is safe for you to use. Always carry out a quick inspection and make sure the workplace is safe for you and your workers to do their job. If here are concerns, they must be addressed and rectified before you commence work.


1.8 Industry specific descriptions used in this guide

1.8.1 Event

An event is the general description for entertainment activities such as concerts, corporate functions, theatrical performances, community gatherings, etc. in the broadest interpretation of the term.

1.8.2 Audio

Audio refers to all activities in relation to Public Address (PA) amplified sounds, speech or music.

1.8.3 Lighting

Lighting refers to the application of theatrical lighting in the broadest sense of the term. For more general lighting the term ‘Area Lighting’ will be used.

1.8.4 Bump in/Bump out

Refers to the time when an area is prepared for use for an entertainment event or returned to an alternative use after the event. Activities can be as simple as hanging a few lights or building a simple set to a complete transformation of the space. It is a high risk time with many activities closely resembling a building site.

1.9 General terms

The Act means the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Theatrical performance means acting, singing, playing a musical instrument, dancing or otherwise performing literary or artistic works or expressions of traditional custom or folklore.

Action Level means a noise level above which the employer should take action to reduce the noise exposure of employees. The assessment of “action level” should not take into account the attenuation of any personal hearing protection. The levels are:
1) a peak noise level (Lpeak) of 140dB(lin); or
2) an 8-hour exposure level (LAeq, 8h) of 85dB(A).

Designer means a person who designs a set or structure or who is responsible for the design of a set or structure.

Emergency – any event which arises internally or from external sources which may adversely affect the safety of persons in a workplace or the community generally and calls for immediate response by the occupants.

Entertainment activities include stage operations of any kind whether at an internal or external venue.

Entertainment industry – for the purposes of this document, entertainment industry means all of the people, contractors, companies and other entities involved in any live entertainment activities or events that are open to the general public, including any activity that relates to the pre-production and/or post-production phases of those entertainment activities.

Entertainment venue – any place where a performance is conducted for the enjoyment of members of the public.

Event Leq – the average A-weighted sound pressure level measured over the period of a performance expressed in decibels.

Fogs and smokes – smoke and fog are both used to describe atmospheric effects in theatre. Smoke is comprised of solid particles suspended in the air and is more often than not the effect of incomplete combustion. Fog comprises liquid droplets suspended in the air and is not the product of combustion. For the purposes of this document, the terms are used according to these definitions.

Hazard – anything that has the potential to cause damage to life, health or property and applies to substances, work methods or machines and other factors in the work environment.

Hierarchy of controls – a process to assist in choosing the most effective control measure to

minimise a risk. Consideration is given in turn to each of the following with measures higher on the list

being preferred over those lower on the list:

  • Eliminate the hazard – avoid the hazard entirely by consideration of moving to another location, or eliminating a hazardous activity from the programme, activity, item, plant or material.
  • Substitute the hazard with a less hazardous alternative – use a less hazardous process, for example, replacing a hazardous substance with a less hazardous one or substituting a difficult routine with a less onerous one.
  • Apply engineering controls including isolation or modifications to design – redesign of sets to minimise trapping spaces or fall risks; guard all unprotected openings or edges; utilise lifting equipment to move heavy props or redesign props so that they are not so heavy.
  • Implement administrative controls including safe working practices – alter the routine to reduce exposure, for example, rotate staff or develop standard operating procedures for traps which incorporate control of health and safety risks.
  • Provide personal protective equipment (the last and least preferred option or to be used only to supplement other measures) – provide fall arrest devices for work at heights; provide hearing protection for work with high sound pressure levels.

Incident – an unplanned event that results in damage to property or could have resulted in an injury to workers or members of the public. It includes dangerous occurrences and “near hits”.

SDS (Safety Data Sheet) – a document prepared by the manufacturer or importer of a hazardous substance. It prescribes the properties and uses of a particular hazardous substance and provides information on the substance’s identity, chemical and physical properties, health hazard information, precautions for use and safe handling information.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) includes safety glasses, safety shoes, hard hats, fall protection equipment such as safety harnesses and fall arrest devices, gloves and hearing protection.

Pendulum effect means a circumstance where a person in a harness is suspended from a fixed point so as to move to and fro by the action of gravity and acquired kinetic energy.

Producing company – for the purposes of this document, producing company includes the event manager.

Reference Position means a nominated sound pressure level measurement position within the venue sufficiently close to the stage area that the sound level is dominated by the music.

Risk – the probability and consequences of occurrence of injury or illness. Risk depends on such factors as the nature of the hazard, the degree of exposure, the potential consequences and individual characteristics such as susceptibility to hazardous substances.

Risk assessment means the process of evaluating the probability and consequences of injury or illness arising from exposure to an identified hazard and for the purposes of this document includes Hazard Identification and Risk Control initiatives.

Risk control means taking action to eliminate health and safety risks so far as is reasonably practicable, and if that is not possible, minimising the risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Eliminating a hazard will also eliminate any risks associated with that hazard.

Risk register – a document that lists identified hazards with an assigned priority; the measures of control of identified hazards and any action that is planned to either minimise the risk in the short term or eliminate the risk in the long term. It is a useful tool as well as a control mechanism.

Self-employed person – for the purposes of this document, self-employed persons are treated as employers.

Set – any scenery and associated technical equipment used in an entertainment production.

Structure – also means any part of a structure.

Workers – for the purposes of this document, workers also include volunteers and artists.

Workplace is defined in most Australian state and territory legislation as any area where work is conducted.

1.10 Terms used in fall control measures

Anchorage: means a secure point for attaching a lanyard, lifeline or other component of a travel restraint system or fall-arrest system. Anchorages require specific load and impact capacities for their intended use.

Double or triple action device: is a self-closing hook or karabiner with a keeper latch which will automatically close and remain closed until manually opened. These units have a minimum of at least two distinct and deliberate consecutive actions to manually open them.

Free fall: is any fall or part of a fall where the person falling is under the unrestrained influence of gravity over any fall distance, either vertically or on a slope on which it is not possible to walk without the assistance of a handrail or hand line.

Inertia reel: (also known as a self-retracting lanyard or fall-arrest block) is a type 2 or 3 fall-arrest device that arrests a fall by locking onto a line and at the same time allows freedom of movement.

Karabiners: these are metal types of connectors that can be attached to anchorage points.
They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and locking mechanisms to suit various applications.
They should be self-closing and self- or manual-locking and capable of being opened only by
at least two consecutive deliberate manual actions.

Lanyard: an assembly consisting of a line and components which will enable connection between a harness and an anchorage point and will absorb energy in the event of a fall.

Personal energy absorber (or deceleration device): means a device which reduces the deceleration force imposed when a fall is suddenly arrested, and correspondingly reduces the loadings on the anchorage and the person’s body. The energy absorber may either be a separate item or manufactured as part of the lanyard.

Restraint line: is the line securing workers to a point of anchorage and is used to prevent a person from reaching a point from which he or she could fall.

Static line: is a horizontal or substantially horizontal line to which a lanyard may be attached and which is designed to arrest a free fall.

Total fall distance: is the total distance a person is likely to fall during both the free and restrained parts of a fall and includes the maximum dynamic extension of all supporting components.




Revision table:
Last revised 20 November 2017