New Occupational Health and Safety Legislation for New Zealand
A new Health and Safety Reform Bill has recently been passed by the New Zealand Parliament, and will come into effect on 4 April 2016. The new law will be called the Health and Safety at Work Act, and will replace the Health and Safety in Employment Act, 1992.
Legislation is being in an effort to reduce New Zealand's work injury and death toll by 25% as of 2020.This comes in the wake of the Pike River Coal Mine disaster in 2010 which killed 29 people.
The new Health and Safety at Work (HSW) Act has been largely modelled on the Australian Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act, and WorkSafe NZ has been established to regulate the new legislation. A number of regulations to support the HSW Act will be finalised in the first quarter
of 2016 and include:
- General Risk and Workplace Management;
- Major Hazard Facilities;
- Asbestos; and
- Engagement, worker participation and representation.
Approved Codes of Practices will also be developed by WorkSafe NZ to help guide industries during the transition to the new legislation.
Key features of the new Act include:
- The concept of a "person conducting a business or undertaking" ("PCBU") is introduced and holds the primary duty of care for worker safety. PCBUs must discharge their duty to the extent possible based on their level of influence. Generally a PCBU will be an organisation.
- The definition of a worker has been broadened to include contractors and volunteer workers. The term "employee" is no longer considered relevant, and workers do not need to be in a contract of employment to have the right to a duty of care. Conversely, workers also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own safety and that of others.
- Officers of organisations have a duty to control workplace health and safety risks to keep them as low as reasonably practicable.
- Duty of care extends to designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plans, substances or structures, as well as the installers, constructors or commissioners of plant or structures.
- Workers are expected to have a greater input into workplace health and safety.
- Regulation of hazardous substances at the workplace will be transferred from the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act to the new regulations. HSNO will still be used to regulate the use of hazardous substances in the environment.
- The focus of the new legislation is to identify and minimize health and safety risks.
- Penalties have increased to provide more of a deterrence for health and safety breaches, and include up to five years of imprisonment for offences involving reckless conduct; and
- Infringement notices can now be issued without needing to issue a prior warning. It is critical that companies in New Zealand start preparing now for the introduction of the new HSW legislation. Companies should start to familiarise themselves with the legislation, identify health and safety risks at their workplaces, and make health and safety an intrinsic part of the workplace culture.