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Does my business need an H&S rep?

Health and safety law applies to all businesses. But some small businesses may not need to have a health and safety representative.

It’s a myth that the new health and safety law won’t apply to small businesses. It will. But you might be exempt from electing a health and safety (H&S) representative or committee &mdash even if a worker asks for one — if your business is small and in a low-risk industry.

The Health and Safety At Work Act 2015 comes into effect on 4 April.

The Health and Safety At Work Act 2015 comes into effect on 4 April.

One of the main aims is to encourage workers to take part in health and safety.

Talk about it with your workers and listen closely when they raise risks and offer suggestions. Your workers may want to have a colleague as their H&S representative as a way of being involved in health and safety. Under the new law you don’t have to agree to this if your business is in a low-risk industry and has fewer than 20 employees.

However, you can still agree to a representative, even if legally you don’t have to. It’s a great way to get your people involved in health and safety at the workplace. See Types of worker representation (external link) on the WorkSafe website.

If you’re in a high-risk industry, you must agree to have a representative if one of your workers requests it, no matter how many staff you employ.

Once elected, representatives can:

  • represent workers on H&S matters
  • provide feedback and make recommendations on H&S
  • get H&S information and inspect the workplace
  • attend H&S rep training during paid work time.

If your business already has a trained rep, they qualify for government-funded transition training to understand the changes to their role. See our article on free H&S training for more details.

At business.govt.nz, we’ve just revamped our health and safety content, including:

We’ve also been covering the law change in our newsletter. Here are some of our most popular articles:

The WorkSafe website (external link) also has useful information and regular updates about the Act.

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