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Health and safety: Round-up of law changes

New laws aim to get everyone involved in staying health and safe at work  and also cover the safe removal of asbestos. Here's what you'll need to know.

When: 4 April 2016.

What: The new law says everyone must play a part in working in a safe and healthy way. You must also do what is “reasonably practicable” to manage health and safety risks at work — this means doing what a reasonable person would do in your situation to find workable ways to eliminate or minimise risks.

The law also covers which businesses must have a health and safety (H&S) representative or committee.

Why: The aim is to reduce the number of people killed or hurt at work. In New Zealand, on average 52 people die on the job each year and one in 10 is harmed. WorkSafe's Home Time campaign (external link) explains why H&S is so important.

What you’ll need to do: Depending on what you’re already doing about keeping people healthy and safe, it may not be as hard, expensive or time-consuming as you think.

Your business must make sure all workers can contribute to health and safety decisions at work. For 10 tips to get everyone involved, check out our new picture slider.

If you have a small business that’s not in a high-risk industry, you don’t have to act on a worker request for an H&S rep or committee. But you’ll still need to get workers involved in H&S in ways that meet your business needs, size and level of risk — and suit your workers.

But if you work in a high-risk sector, you must have an H&S rep or committee if asked by your workers.

Asbestos licences

What: Most asbestos removal work over 10m2 will require a licence from 4 April. This affects not only asbestos removal businesses, but also builders, roofers and other tradespeople who remove asbestos.

If you work in construction on premises built before the late 1990s, you’ll probably work with materials containing asbestos. Work that could bring you into contact with asbestos includes replacing lino and removing soffits, external wall cladding, corrugated roofing sheets and textured ceilings.

Why: To make sure workers who come into contact with asbestos have the skills and experience to keep everyone concerned safe. At present more than 170 Kiwis a year die from asbestos-related diseases.

What you’ll need to do: Either use a licensed remover, or get a WorkSafe removal licence if you want to take out:

  • more than 10m2 of non-friable (bonded) asbestos, or asbestos-containing material (ACM) in one job
  • any amount of friable asbestos.

Find out more and apply for a licence (external link)  — from 4 April on the WorkSafe website.

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