Why Business Owners and Directors should be concerned with changes to NZ Health and Safety Law

Recently a forestry company boss was charged with manslaughter for the death of a worker on a forestry block: www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/10460126/Arrest-over-forestry-death-a-surprise

Next year, the Health and Safety Reform Bill is due to come into force on 1 April 2015.  The significant changes to NZ health and safety law include:

(a)   additional compliance requirements/obligations for employers and directors; and

(b)  increased penalties for failing to comply (max $600,000 fine, 5 year prison sentence).

How does this affect you? Duty holders, which include Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), company directors/officers, workers or contractors and or other persons at work, will have an obligation and a general duty of due diligence to minimise health and safety risks in the work place.

Employers under the new regime will have an increased responsibility to keep employees safe, and both parties are encouraged to work together to foster a safe work place and report incidents and potential issues

Notably, there is a clear intention to name and shame offending parties as breaches will result in penalties and publication of the offence.   Such prosecution and reputational risks make it critical that businesses adopt a robust best practice commitment to health and safety.

WorkSafe NZ is the government’s health and safety regulator.  Its focus is to embed and promote good health and safety practices by engaging with and educating employers and employees.  They can also halt any unsafe work: www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/

Why the changes? After the Pike River tragedy, a Royal Commission investigation concluded that NZ’s health and safety record compared to other advanced countries was poor and that NZ organisations needed to adopt an “organisation wide safety culture” to avoid another catastrophic incident.

If you have any questions or would like to take steps to comply please call 04 472 9632 or email richard.chiu@slaw.co.nz

H&S  (2)