Health and Safety law change

A new health and safety law is expected to be passed later this year and come into effect on 1 April 2016.

A new health and safety (H&S) law is expected to be passed later this year and come into effect on 1 April 2016. While not all the changes are yet confirmed, enough is known for you to check what – if any – action your business may need to take.

If you have good H&S policies and practices already in place, you’re in a good position to stay compliant when the law changes. If not, there’s plenty of time to rectify this to make sure you are up to speed with the new regime.

Who will be responsible for workplace H&S?

In short, everyone in a business:

1. The business itself – a new legal concept will be a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU). It will usually be a business entity, such as a company, rather than an individual. The PCBU will have the primary duty under the new law to ensure the health and safety of its workers and others affected by the work it carries out.

That’s why it may also need to consult with other PCBUs where it shares a worksite or are part of a contracting or supply chain, to make sure all workers are safe and healthy.

2. Officers – includes directors and other people who make governance decisions that significantly affect a business. Officers have a duty of due diligence to ensure their PCBU complies with its H&S obligations.

3. Workers – must take reasonable care to ensure the H&S of themselves and others, and to comply with the PCBUs reasonable instructions and policies.

4. Other people who come to the workplace, such as visitors or customers, also have some H&S duties. It’s all about taking your share of the responsibility for what you can control.

What are the key changes?

The new legislation shifts the focus from monitoring and recording health and safety incidents to proactively identifying and managing risks so everyone is safe. The new law requires you to take all reasonably practical steps to reduce the risk of injury at work.

This might not necessarily mean a major change to your day-to-day operations, but it’s the PCBUs duty to think about who may be affected by its business. This includes staff, contractors, customers and visitors.

The PCBU will also need to engage its workers in health and safety matters.

What do I need to do?

If your business already has a strong commitment to H&S, you might not have to do anything new (check the list below).

If not, you’ll need to think about what could go wrong in your business and how to manage your health and safety risks. Make sure all staff understand it, and use these tips to get on the right track:

  • Identify H&S hazards and risks, and take steps to prevent these from happening.
  • Make sure your H&S policies are led by management, understood by all staff and reviewed regularly.
  • Hold regular training on H&S matters.
  • Engage workers in H&S matters that affect them.
  • Support all officers to get up to date with H&S issues and key risk factors.
  • Report and monitor H&S goals.
  • Regularly review any incidents.
  • Carry out frequent H&S audits.

Taking these steps is good for your staff and workplace, helps productivity and it may help reduce your ACC levies. For tips on how to pay less, see Workplace Safety Discounts on the ACC website.

What happens if you fail to comply with the Health & Safety Rules?

The new rules provide for substantially higher penalties than those applicable under current law. 

The proposed penalties are:

1. Breaches arising from reckless conduct carry a maximum fine of $3,000,000 for companies and $600,000 and/or five years imprisonment for an individual (including a worker and an officer of a PCBU).

2. Breaches exposing a person to a risk of death or serious injury or illness carry a maximum fine of $1,500,000 (company) and $300,000 (individual); and

3. A failure to comply with a health and safety duty that does not fall within the above two categories will carry a maximum fine of $300,000 (company) and $100,000 (individual).

We recommend that you take the time to review the business.govt.nz website.