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What you need to know about the new Health & Safety Reform Bill

Tuesday 25 August, 2015 13:05

Are you aware of where your responsibilities lie in the new Health & Safety Reform Bill?

Hopefully you are now aware that there will be new legislation to govern Health & Safety in New Zealand. 

The Government is pushing this through parliament now. 

While it has taken longer to work through the process than any one envisaged, the authorities have been endeavouring to make it the most robust piece of legislation they can.

Firstly, which of the following are you?

  1. Are you a "PCBU" or “Person Conducting Business or Undertaking”?  
    • This will be the legal entity which is responsible for worker Health & Safety and could be any of; a Limited Co, a Partnership, Trading As, a Sole trader or any other form of legal business entity
  2. Are you an "Officer"?
    • These are the most senior people within an organisation i.e. Director, Board Member, Partner, CEO and depending on the size of the organisation could encompass other roles / people which are deemed to play a senior Governance Role within the PCBU
  3. Are you a "Worker"? 
    • This has now been clarified and is a very broad term
    • It encompasses all workers who are “undertaking” work on behalf of the PCBU
    • These will include your workers, contractors and their workers, sub-contractors and their workers, labour hire workers, work experience workers, most volunteers, trainees, outworkers and any other form of Worker undertaking work on behalf of the PCBU
    • This can be at your workplace, or any other workplace they are directed to work on

6 Key Elements of the New Bill You Should Be Aware Of:

  1. Governance
    • Is a very strong focus, with an emphasis on the management of any organisation setting parameters for H&S, being engaged in H&S and measuring the outcomes of the policies and procedures the organisation implements
    • Owners and / or senior managers who have not previously been actively engaged in H&S, should reconsider that position
  2. Officers Positive Duty of Care
    • Under this new Bill the Officers of the company have a “Positive Duty of Care”
    • In the event of a prosecution, lack of knowledge, will not be a defense
    • Within the Bill “Due Diligence” is defined and is very specific – you need to know and understand your obligations
  3. Worker Participation
    • Recent media has created some confusion around this due to an amendment in the new Bill which removed the requirement for low risk businesses with less than 20 employees to have an H&S representative
    • This does not change the fact that the Bill does put much greater emphasis on “Worker Engagement & Participation” regardless of the type and size of the business 
  4. Risk Management
    • The new Bill places great emphasis on applying a Risk Rating to your identified hazards
    • This risk rating needs to look at both the Probability of the Hazard to create an incident and the Hazard Severity in the event of an incident
    • By doing this you will be able to focus on those Hazards which present the greater risk
    • Securo currently has a Risk Rating tool (form 021) available and will update this as part of our review of documents for the new legislation
    • We will be sending more information on this in the future
  5. Verification & Measurement
    • There is a heavy emphasis on the Officers of the PCBU ensuring that the H&S procedures are reviewed regularly to ensure they are adequate and are being followed
    • How regularly these procedures are reviewed, may vary, depending on the risk profile of the PCBU, but we would think a quarterly review schedule may be common
    • Also the need for evidence of a review will increase, always initial and date any documents which are reviewed
    • This will become evidence in the event you become involved in an investigation
    • Think of it as a “tell us how good you are” then show us how good you are” process.  Evidence will be crucial
  6. Bigger Penalties
    • There are a range of increased penalties available to the courts in the instance of a successful prosecution under this Bill
    • At the higher level of negligence resulting in extreme harm, a $3m penalty for the PCBU plus up to $600k and/ or 5 years in jail for an Officer of a PCBU
    • The penalties are scalable for the size and level of responsibility of the PCBU / Officers but these are still very big start points
    • Note, workers may be prosecuted for causing harm to others.  This is particularly true in the event that WorkSafe NZ undertakes an investigation and concludes that the PCBU has sound policies and procedures but that the worker did not follow these.

In summary, any Officer of a PCBU needs to know and understand their obligations under this new Bill. 

You need to identify and undertake a Risk Assessment of your Hazards and engage your workers in this process.

Finally, the evidence (paperwork) of you participating in any Health & Safety process needs to be robust. 

Should something go wrong, the penalties are too great to ignore.

The team here at Securo are running workshops on the new Health & Safety Reform Bill.

Find out what you need to know, and what you need to do: Find out the dates and locations of our next workshop.