Workplace Health and Safety gets stringent

Workplace Health and Safety-Francis PetersFrancis Peters – 

The Health and Safety Reform Bill, which is set to replace the current Health and Safety Legislation, was initially introduced to Parliament in March 2014.

The legislative fabric is based heavily on the Australian Work Health and Safety Act.

It is currently being considered by a Select Committee and is expected to become part of New Zealand’s legislative framework by late 2015.

Key features of the proposed Legislation are (1) It increases the penalties for non-compliance and creates a new three-tiered hierarchy of offences (2) It imposes a new duty to take ‘reasonably practicable steps’ (3) It replaces the duties owed by employers, owners and principals with a broader duty owed by ‘Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ or PCBU (4) It includes a new object of providing for workers’ health and safety. (5) It implements a presumption in favour of the highest level of protecting workers from health and safety related harm and (6) It imposes a new due diligence obligation on directors and officers

Directors’ Obligations

‘Officers’ will prospectively now include individuals who make decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part, of the business.

Under the new Legislation, directors and officers will be required to exercise due diligence to ensure compliance. The new Legislation purports to detail steps directors and officers should take, including (a) Acquiring and maintaining current knowledge of health and safety matters, the company’s operations and the hazards and risks arising from those operations (b) Verifying that the company does indeed have sufficient resources available to manage health and safety risks, and that the company is effectively utilising those resources and (c) ensuring that the company complies with its health and safety duties.

The new Legislation contains increased penalties for non-compliance and an increased focus on enforcement. Directors and officers will be personally liable if they fail to exercise due diligence.

PCBU obligations

If you are a Person Conducting a PCBU (Employers, Managing Directors, Principals, Self-Employed, Partnerships, Managers or Controllers of a workplace), then the new Legislation will impose an enhanced primary obligation on you as a PCBU to take ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to ensure the health and safety of workers.

The Act will also place specific duties on PCBUs which are intended to manage or control workplaces or fittings or plant at workplaces, and designers, importers, manufacturers and installers of plant, substances or structures to be used in a workplace.

The Act will encompass Increased obligations to support worker participation, to consult with workers and, if requested, to train health and safety representatives.

The Legislation also stipulates increased penalties for non-compliance and an increased focus on enforcement.

Workers’ duties

The Health and Safety Reform Bill contains a number of relevant features for employees, apprentices, volunteers and students.

Workers and others will be subject to a legislative obligation to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and not to affect the health and safety of others.

The Legislation also sets out a system for workers to request the election of health and safety representatives and to form work groups.

There will also be increased penalties for non-compliance as well as an increased focus on enforcement.

Francis Peters is a Barrister and Solicitor in the Litigation Team of Corban Revell Lawyers, based in Auckland. He specialises in employment and civil and commercial litigation. He frequently appears in District Courts throughout Auckland and has also appeared in the High Court for civil litigation matters and represented both employers and employees in the Employment Relations Authority.

Corban Revell Lawyers is the Sponsor of the ‘Business Excellence in Innovation’ category of the Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards 2015.

Corban Revell Lawyers provides comprehensive legal services including Commercial, Estate Planning, Family & Relationship Property (including Separation and Divorce), Immigration, Litigation, Maori Issues and Property & Conveyancing. The law firm also handles all issues relating to Franchising. For further information, please contact (09) 8370550; Email: info@corbanrevell.co.nz

 

 

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