Worker Engagement, Participation & Representation

Monday April 3, 2023 15:17

A common question arises from our clients concerning the differences between the old health and safety legislation – Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and the new Act – Health and Safety At Work Act – 2015 (HSAW)?

Whilst the Acts are similar there are  three main changes :

  1. Coverage – all organisations and workers are included – employees, contractors, trainees and volunteers.
  2. Enforcement – The Government appointed Regulator – WorkSafe NZ has a duty to encourage, educate and enforce compliance with the new legislation and if necessary, the powers to prosecute.
  3. Involvement – Part 2 Health and Safety duties - Section 36(1) (9a) of the HSAW and Part 3 Worker engagement, participation and representation clearly outline the PCBU’s primary duty of care and the duty to engage with workers.

The first two changes involving “Coverage” and “Enforcement” are quite clear and understandable. The third change of “Involvement” requiring engagement with workers appears to be confusing and a step not always seen as necessary and/or taken easily.

It has been seen by some organisations as a relinquishing of management control yet when fully utilised, it empowers all workers to actively contribute to the health and safety of the working environment.

So what is required?

A safe working environment or lack of one, affects and impacts everyone’s safety and wellbeing. Whilst the Person Conducting a Business or undertaking (PCBU) has a primary duty of care, all workers have a responsibility to take reasonable care for his or her own health and safety and ensure that his or her acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons.

In short we all have “skin in the game” and a vested interest in the avoidance of harm.

It is also accepted that the workers actually doing the work often know more about the risks, know where the hazards are and what changes occur during the work process – whether it is a machine, a vehicle, a warehouse or a construction site.

The Regulator - WorkSafe NZ understands this and consider engagement and involvement of workers in such matters as health & safety meetings (toolbox meetings), reporting of potential hazards and risk assessment, crucial to the effective management of health and safety.

It is a priority at every WorkSafe NZ workplace inspection and is always closely examined by the inspector and a critical question at the worker interview.

If the work of a business or undertaking is carried out by less than 20 workers and is not within the scope of any high-risk sector, then a PCBU is not required to initiate the election of one or more health and safety representatives.

However, there is a clear duty to have engagement with workers and open participation practices.

Securo New Zealand actively supports and encourages all clients to incorporate engagement and involvement of workers in health and safety management practices.

If you have any concerns around this topic or other Health & Safety matters, your Securo Consultant is available to help. 

They can also advise on hazard management and provide access to specialist health professionals for health monitoring services, so please give them a call or alternatively, you can contact Securo head office on 0800 55 33 44.