Health & Safety Law Changes – Staying compliant & staying safe

Hamish Mexted Asset Protection, Odds & Ends

New Zealand has a poor workplace safety record. During 2012 this record saw 180,000 ACC claims made for work-related injuries. Every year 75 people die at work.

As a response, the Government is introducing changes to New Zealand’s health and safety law.

In short, under existing law Directors are liable where they’ve participated in, contributed to or allowed a health and safety breach to occur. Under the new changes, Directors must proactively manage all aspects of workplace health and safety – a failure to do so may expose a Director to penalties.

Amongst other things, Directors must also:

  • Keep an up to date knowledge of health and safety matters
  • Understand the nature of the business’s operations and the hazards/risks associated with those operations
  • Ensure that appropriate processes are in place and that staff have access to any relevant resources to eliminate or minimise risks
  • Have appropriate processes in place to review incidents, hazards and risks in a timely fashion

In short, the Government is raising the bar.

This duty to actively manage health and safety applies not only to employees of the business, but also to contractors. Looking at the construction industry, there is generally a construction company, contractor, sub-contractor and a worker involved in every job. The construction company needs to ensure that the worker is adequately protected by the sub-contractor.

The construction company is required to protect the worker, and might do this by:

  • Ensuring the contractor has appropriate health and safety procedures in place
  • Reviewing the contractor’s process for engaging their sub-contractors
  • Monitoring compliance with all health and safety procedures

The changes will also see the introduction of stronger penalties and more funding for enforcement. That said, penalties and enforcement alone shouldn’t be the reason to improve your health (you should be doing it to protect your staff).

So, to make sure you’re protecting your staff and complying with the legislation you should:

  • Review your current procedures to make sure you’re in shape – tinkering the night before the legislation comes in won’t cut it
  • Reconsider the hazards in your workplace – your operations might have changed since you last looked at them, creating new hazards
  • Look at any contractors you’re using and decide whether their health and safety is up to scratch – you don’t want to be liable for any of their errors
  • Question what you’re doing – looking at health and safety from a fresh perspective will always highlight new areas to address

If you’re unsure about your obligations or just want to talk through what you’re doing, feel free to contact us – [email protected] or 04 212 4977. We’re happy to have a no cost, no obligation chat.