With the new laws taking effect on the 4th of April, now is the time to ensure your workplace is ready. The legislation has changed and it may affect your business.
Nobody goes to work expecting to get hurt, sick or killed, but in New Zealand, far too many people do. On average, 73 people die on the job each year, one in ten is harmed and over 600 die from work-related diseases; by world standards, we are not doing well.
Following the Pike River disaster, the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety was established to investigate New Zealand’s high rate of workplace deaths and injuries. The report emphasises that if we want to see a change in Health and Safety in NZ, we have to do something dramatically different. Doing more of the same isn’t good enough.
The focus of the new legislation is to ensure everyone plays a role in being responsible for safe workplaces. It is now not a case of ‘do I have a responsibility” but “what is my responsibility”. It provides a more cooperative approach for effective risk management. This includes workers as well as employers.
If you have good practices in health and safety now, you might not need too many changes, but here are a couple of things you should know.
The new legislation uses the term PCBU. Quite simply, a PCBU is A Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking. This captures the current legislation’s concepts of duty holders of employer, self-employed, principals to contracts, person controlling a place of work as well as those who run not for profit organisations. The new law makes it very clear that those who create risk are responsible for managing it, either by eliminating or minimising it, so far as is reasonably practicable. The primary responsibility may rest with you.
Larger businesses will have a named senior person who exercises significant influence over the management of the business or undertaking. This may often be a Director or CEO. The Officer’s duty is not the same as the PCBU’s duty. Officers do not have to directly ensure the health and safety of the PCBU’s workers. Rather, the officer must exercise due diligence that the PCBU is meeting its health and safety legal obligations. The due diligence duty complements and supports the primary duty of care of the PCBU – it does not replace it. Both a PCBU and an officer can be liable if they do not fulfil their required duties.
The definition of a workplace has been changed from the original Bill to reflect the fact that some areas are not a workplace all the time. A PCBU who manages or controls a workplace will have a duty so far as reasonably practicable to make sure the workplace is safe for workers and other persons.
A workplace is defined as a place where work is being carried out or is “customarily” carried out for a business or undertaking. It includes any place a worker goes or is likely to be while at work.
In the case of plant access on the roof, it is your responsibility to ensure they can access locations and perform their job safely. It is considered a workplace when people are working there.
In detail, Point 37 says:
(1) A PCBU, who manages or controls a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace, the means of entering and exiting the workplace, and anything arising from the workplace are without risks to the health and safety of any person.
(2) Despite subsection (1), a PCBU who manages or controls a workplace does not owe a duty under that subsection to any person who is at the workplace for an unlawful purpose.
Who is liable?
Under the new system, penalties are higher, and we are all responsible for making our workplaces safe. Cost is not considered an issue unless it is grossly disproportionate. Individuals can be fined up to $300K, while companies up to $3 million.
There is a lot to learn about the new act so try and get well informed. If you are unsure about the standards of your roof access and height safety, please give us a call. We are specialists in the field and here to help. Our priority is to ensure the safety of you and your staff.