Understanding the New Health and Safety at Work Act in New Zealand

The Health and Safety at Work Act creates safer working environments by reducing the number of workplace injuries, enforcing health and safety laws, and assisting employees injured on the job. The New Zealand government saw that too many people are seriously injured or killed while performing work tasks.

According to Worksafe, 52 people die each year from work related injuries in New Zealand, while hundreds more are seriously injured and more than 600 people die each year from work-related illnesses. Changes in the Health and Safety at Work Act should help reduce those numbers.

The goal of this new act, part of a larger reform, is to reduce the number of work related deaths and injuries by at least 25 percent but 2020, according to Worksafe.

Changes to the program have shifted some of the responsibility and adjusted the focus of the Act. Here are three of the most important things you need to understand about these changes and what you can expect in the workplace:

Who Will Be Responsible for Workplace Health and Safety?

According to Worksafe, there are four different levels of responsibility, but everyone plays a role in maintaining safety in the workplace.

The Business: A new legal term to remember: PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking). This term will usually refer to a company rather than an individual. A business will be the key player in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace

The legal term PCBU means that a business has the primary duty, or that the business “must ensure… the health and safety of workers and that other people are not put at risk by its work,” according to HWSA.

These responsibilities include but are not limited to:

-Maintaining a workplace free of safety and health risks

-Maintaining safe structures

-Maintaining safe work systems

-Proper handling of storage, structures and substances

-Monitoring workplace conditions and the health of workers

Officers: Individuals considered officers include directors and other decision-makers within the business. Officers are required to ensure the business complies with all laws regarding the health and safety of employees. Officers specifically refers to company directors, any partner in a partnership, any general partner or any individual who has significant influence over the company.

Workers: All employees should make sure to follow rules and protocols and watch for possible threats to employee/public health and safety in the work place.

Other individuals: Guests, customers, clients and other people visiting the workplace are also responsible for ensuring they follow proper safety procedures to avoid putting employees and other individuals at risk.

Other Key Changes to Remember:

One of the biggest changes for the Health and Safety Worker Act: 2015 is that the emphasis of the Act will move from monitoring and recording incidents to working to identify risks and handling those risks so that there are fewer incidents.

While most workers will not see many noticeable changes in their day-to-day work tasks, each business is responsible for determining potential risks and who is at risk for injury and illness because of their business. This means that companies will take a more hands-on approach to ensuring that employees, customers and other individuals are aware of safety protocols, and that everyone follows those protocols.

Additionally, businesses are responsible for ensuring that employees and contractors are both engaged and participating in keeping a safe environment. This means that employees should know about safety issues and may be asked for contribution about decisions regarding work hazards. Businesses should help employees feel comfortable discussing safety and health concerns and offering suggestions.

Businesses may also consider tasking Health and Safety Representatives or asking employees to participate on a Health and Safety Committee.

What you can do:

Business owners and employees can be proactive in helping prevent and/or reduce the number of deaths, injuries and illnesses in the workplace.

Ideas for contributing include:

  •       Monitor and report on safety goals within your business
  •       Review all incidents that occur on the job
  •       Hold/attend regular health and safety training
  •       Support individuals tasked with updating safety procedures
  •       Identify all safety hazards and ways to prevent dangerous situations
  •       Work with all employees to educate them on dangers in the workplace

The HWSA will focus on encouraging everyone to take responsibility for the things they can control to help reduce the risk of injury or illness.


By Angela Brown for myosh Safety Management Software

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