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Get ready for health and safety law changes

New health and safety (H&S) law is expected to be passed later this year and come into effect several months after that. 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. Learn more from WorkSafe about PCBUs (external link) .
  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 PCBU’s 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 other 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.

This might not necessarily mean a major change to your day-to-day operations, but it’s the PCBU’s 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 through toolbox talks, H&S representatives, or other ways that suit that particular business.

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 (external link) .

What’s the reason for these changes?

New Zealand has a poor record of workplace H&S. Its workers are twice as likely to be killed or suffer serious harm compared to Australia, and six times as likely as those in the UK.

WorkSafe New Zealand figures show that on average each year, across all New Zealand workplaces:

  • 75 people die on the job
  • one in 10 is harmed
  • an estimated 600 to 900 die from work-related diseases.

The Government’s Working Safer reform package aims to bring down the workplace injury and death toll by at least 25% by 2020. The Health and Safety Reform Bill is to play a large part in this. By meeting your H&S obligations, you will too.

Read more from WorkSafe about the Health and Safety Reform Bill (external link) .

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