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Health & Safety changes : are you ready?

Posted by denise on 12 January 2016 | 0 Comments

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Many of you will be aware of the Health and Safety Reform Bill which has been before Parliament.  Working Safer: a blueprint for health and safety at work reforms New Zealand's health and safety system following the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety and the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine tragedy.

The  new Health and Safety at Work Act replaces the Health and Safety in Employment Act and the Machinery Act 1950.  The Act will come into force on 4 April 2016, after which new obligations – and consequences for breaching them – will be enforceable.  What does the new Act mean for employers?

Once in effect, the HSW Act will place new obligations on:

  • A ‘person’ conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) – this includes individuals, partnerships, companies and associations
  • The officers of a PCBU
  • Workers
  • Other people at a workplace

While employers must ensure the health and safety of its workers and other workers whose activities are influenced by their business, they must also ensure that the health and safety of any other person isn’t put at risk because of the work being carried out. 
 
The change that businesses are most concerned about is the inclusion of liability for officers.

Under the Act, an officer at a company – who can anyone who occupies a position that allows them to exercise significant influence over the management of the business (such as a CEO or director) – would run the risk of being personally liable over serious harm incidents if they haven’t been carrying out due diligence.  For more information on what due diligence looks like in practice click here .

For many business operators, especially SME’s, the risk of additional liability and focus on due diligence is a different way of thinking.  Organisations that have in-house health and safety specialists need to ensure that those people are up to speed with the new Act and that they have appropriately briefed both staff and management.  Small to medium sized organisations are more at risk.  They should ensure they seek specialist advice and support around what the Act means for their business, carry out an audit of their systems and processes and make changes as necessary.

Things you can do to prepare:

  • Familiarise yourself with the legislation at http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/about/reform 
  • Ensure your health and safety plans and  hazard management registers  are regularly reviewed and updated; an annual check won’t cut it;
  • Review your health and safety policies and practise 
  • Ensure you have appropriate resources applied to health and safety management
  • Ensure that you are regularly monitoring and reviewing your processes
  • Ensure that your staff are aware of how to report health and safety issues along with reporting workplace accidents, incidents and near misses
  • Where staff raise health and safety issues, listen and act on it; ensure you document the outcomes

Enforcement

A WorkSafe inspector will have a number of options under the HSW Act to issue notices, without an incident having taken place.  The inspector can issue:

  • Improvement notices, which requiring an organisation to take steps to prevent a breach of the legislation or to remedy a current breach
  • Prohibition notices, which ban the continuation on of an activity that involves a serious risk to a person’s health and safety
  • Non-disturbance notices, requiring a site to be preserved, both where a notifiable event has occurred and in other circumstances

If a prosecution for a breach is successful, the court can impose a range of penalties. These include fines, which vary depending on the breach, up to a maximum of $300,000 for an individual, $600,000 for an officer, and $3,000,000 for a PCBU.

Courts can also order reparation to be paid to a person injured by a breach, costs to be paid to WorkSafe, adverse publicity orders, and orders for restoration – amongst others.

Worker participation

Workers – including employees, contractors, volunteers, apprentices and trainees – will have their own obligations to take care of their own health and safety, and to ensure that they do not put the health and safety of others at risk.  They are also obligated to comply with any policies and procedures issued by their employer.

Because duties are owed by workers as well as by companies and officers, it is important that workers are involved in drawing up the health and safety policies of a business.  To facilitate this, the HSW Act sets out a number of requirements for worker participation.

A company will need to consult with their workers when identifying hazards in the workplace, making decisions about how to eliminate or minimise those hazards, developing procedures for anything to do with health and safety, and making decisions about facilities for worker welfare.

You can find more information at http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/about/reform 

source:  HRM Online



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