The Health and Safety Reform Bill has now been passed by parliament taking effect from 4 April 2016. The legislation itself is part of a major reform of health and safety practice in New Zealand.
The new Act imposes a primary duty on employers, with a wide range of duties to ensure health and safety in the workplace. The definition of a ‘workplace’ includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work. The definition of a ‘worker’ is a person – for example, an employee, contractor, person on a work trial or volunteer – who carries out work in any capacity for ‘a person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU). The concept of the PCBU is central to the new reforms, placing responsibility on anyone who owns or controls a workplace and therefore on all links in the contracting chain from principal to all levels of contractor and sub-contractor. Persons who are not necessarily visible at the workplace such as those who design, manufacture, import or supply plant, substances or structures can be PCBUs with responsibilities under the legislation for the health and safety of workers and others who use them in the workplace. Company directors and those in governance roles will have an explicit due diligence duty to ensure that workplace health and safety is managed proactively.
Workers and other people in workplaces will also have obligations to ensure care is taken for the health and safety of themselves and others.
The changes will help everyone involved in the business to be clear on what they need to do to maintain sound health and safety practices in the workplace and ensure workers have the knowledge and ability to keep themselves and their colleagues safe. The regulator and the courts will have a wider range of enforcement tools, including increased penalties for breaches of duties.
The new law will be called the Health and Safety at Work Act. The Act itself will be published on the New Zealand Legislation website soon.
A series of regulations are being developed to support the new Act. These include:
- General risk and workplace management
- Major Hazard Facilities
- Engagement, worker participation and representation (available shortly for public consultation)