Safety Reforms Coming April 4th
– February 18, 2016
In 2015, 35 New Zealanders lost their lives as a result of workplace accidents. Death shouldn’t be a workplace scenario but in New Zealand, businesses are twice as deadly as those in Australia.
What’s worse? We’re six times as deadly as the UK
New Zealand is tragically behind when it comes to Health & Safety. Coming off the back of the Pike River disaster, we have an obligation get our act together and create a safer future.
To facilitate this change, the Health and Safety Reform Bill has been passed, with the new law coming into force on the 4th of April. These changes are part of “Working Safer: a blueprint for health and safety at work”, a project with the goal of reducing workplace injury and death by 25% by 2020. The emphasis on this new act is that everyone in the workplace will be accountable for H&S, requiring conjoined leadership and action amongst all stakeholders: employees, business and government.
The Working Safer Vision
The bill focuses on these main points laid out by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment:
- It reinforces proportionality – what a business needs to do depends on its level of risk and what it can control.
- It shifts from hazard spotting to managing critical risks – actions that reduce workplace harm rather than trivial hazards.
- It introduces the “reasonably practicable” concept – focusing attention on what’s reasonable for a business to do.
- It changes the focus from the physical workplace to the conduct of work – what the business actually does and so what it can control.
- It supports more effective worker engagement and participation – promoting flexibility to suit business size and need.
The bill introduces new defined terms, broadening definitions to add more weight to personal accountability:
A PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) is a broad concept which covers all existing duty holder categories under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. A PCBU is a person conducting a business or undertaking:
- whether the person conducts a business or undertaking alone or with others; and
- whether or not the business or undertaking is conducted for profit or gain.
Despite the name, a PCBU will generally be in the form of a company rather than an actual person. If the company is a sole-trader or self-employed, then a person might be a PCBU. As laid out byMBIE, the PCBU will owe a primary duty of care to its workers and those that it influences and directs in carrying out their work. PCBU’s will have duties to engage with workers and to have effective worker participation practices regarding health & safety.
A worker is defined as a person who carries out work in any capacity for a PCBU, including work as an employee, a contractor or subcontractor, an employee of a contractor or subcontractor or an employee of a labour hire company who has been assigned to work for the PCBU, an outworker, an apprentice or trainee, a person gaining work experience or undertaking a work trial, a volunteer or a person of a prescribed class.
Once again, the definition has been broadened to categorise the large number of relationships that are typical in a work environment.
Reasonably Practicable enters to replace “All Practicable Steps”, enforcing stricter compliance to ensure safety before cost. The assessment of costs can now only be taken after both assessing the risk and available ways to eliminate it. Cost will only ever take precedence over safety when the cost of taking a safety step is “grossly disproportionate” to the risk.
New duties are introduced, effecting PCBU’s and Officers.
PCBU’s must adhere to a much higher level of safety management:
Ensured health and safety, so far as reasonably practicable, over any worker who is working in relation to the PCBU. The PCBU must also ensure the health and safety of other people is not put at risk in regards to any work carried out by the PCBU.
Specific duties regarding:
The management and control of fixtures, fittings and plant in the work place.
The design and manufacture of plant to be used in a workplace.
The supply, importation and installation of plant to be used in a workplace.
Officers are charged with exercising due diligence to ensure PCBU’s comply with health and safety duties. This is a major change from the HSE Act: Officers can now be held liable for not ensuring that PCBU’s comply with their duties, even if the Officer was not directly involved in any activities leading to the company’s failure. Officers may be convicted for a breach of due diligence regardless of whether or not the PCBU has been convicted for an offence.
The bill defines due diligence as taking reasonable steps to:
- acquire, and keep up-to-date, knowledge of work health and safety matters;
- gain an understanding of the nature of the operations of the business or undertaking of the PCBU and generally of the hazards and risks associated with those operations;
- ensure that the PCBU has available for use, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety;
- ensure that the PCBU has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazards, and risks and for responding in a timely way to that information;
- ensure that the PCBU has, and implements, a process for complying with any duty or obligation of the PCBU under the Act; and
- verify the provision and use of resources and processes.
This will be a game changer regarding personal liability. Accountability is now much more direct to management, encouraging stricter compliance or a ticket to a list of fines and imprisonment.
Fines and Imprisonment
There are 3 offence tiers within the bill for breaching health and safety standards, neatly summarised by the NZ Law Society:
Solution to the changes
The standards for H&S have improved, and so have the consequences. It may seem like a lot of hard work but at CS-VUE we see it as an opportunity to get our workplace safety under control.
Worksafe have sent out clear instructions on the new changes and how to organise yourself for the 4th of April.
At CS-VUE, we have been hard at work the last year to create a Risk Management software system to completely manage your workplace Health & Safety. Launched in August 2015, and with 10 years of experience in online compliance, we’re excited to herald a new era of H&S for New Zealand.
CS-VUE Risk Management is designed to meet this new legislation, providing you with tools to identify, minimise, isolate and eliminate risks.
You can’t manage what you don’t know about.
Our fully optimised risk register helps you to manage your daily health & safety requirements. It simplifies the management of health and safety, enabling your business to clearly understand the nature of your risks and to develop strategies for managing and mitigating risks.
Our risk register is responsive and accessible from any online location, enabling users to manage their risks both from a central office or out in the field.
Incorporating risk and incident management, CS-VUE Risk Management is a complementary to CS-VUE’s existing family of CS-VUE Core Compliance services.