Over the past 18 months, we have followed the development of a new health and safety regime for New Zealand. The core duties under that new regime are contained in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. While the Act deals in broad duties, detailed requirements for certain key areas and industries are set out in the newly released regulations. The regulations will come into force on 4 April 2016 – at the same time as the Act. The regulations cover General Risk and Workplace Management, Worker Engagement, Asbestos and Infringement Offences amongst other things. There are also industry-specific regulations for mining, adventure activities and others.
Our summary of some of the key features of the regulations is set out below, and there is further information available on the Worksafe website.
General risk and workplace management
These regulations are designed to work with the main duties in the Act. They add certainty around exactly what businesses will need to do to identify and control risks and hazards, provide safe workplaces, monitor health and safety, and provide and maintain Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and first aid facilities. The regulations also address some specific risks like working while isolated, or with highly flammable material.
Worker engagement and participation
These regulations expand on the requirement to have Health and Safety Representatives, and explain in detail the “loophole” for small businesses that are not considered high risk. It sets out the process for electing, establishing and training such representatives and work groups in your business.
These regulations apply where you have, or think you might have, asbestos in or around your workplace. Simply ignoring that old roofing material and hoping it is not asbestos will not be good enough! The regulations set out a testing, monitoring and management regime for those who suspect they might have asbestos in their workplace. There are also significant rules for those who work in industries which can bring them into contact with asbestos – like demolition or roofing.
These regulations specify the types of “infringement offences” which can receive an instant fine. The fines range from $300 for an individual and up to $6,000 for organisations. These largely relate to failing to comply with notification or record-keeping obligations under the Act or regulations. Please note these are spot fines. For more serious offences, fines can be up to $3,000,000 for the organisation. Officers of the organisation can receive fines of up to $600,000, five years’ imprisonment or both.
What should I do?
The best starting point is to have a comprehensive health and safety programme which covers the duties in the Act and addresses the regulations which specifically apply to your business. Jackson Russell has been providing specialist advice to clients about how to ensure they comply with the incoming duties before 4 April 2016.
The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.
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Glenn Finnigan, PARTNER
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