It's expected that the Health and Safety Reform Bill will be passed before the end of the year and that the resulting Health and Safety at Work Act will be implemented in stages, the first stage taking effect from 1 April 2015. 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.
It is envisaged that there will be an initial round of new regulations covering general risk and workplace management; worker participation, engagement and representation; major hazard facilities; asbestos; and work involving major hazards. More industry-specific regulations are intended to be developed over the following two years.
We'll keep you posted as to what these new measures will mean for your business.