A Mid-Year Snapshot of Health & Safety in NZ

It’s now mid-2019, and many businesses are reviewing their health and safety practices and reminding workers about how to work safely in all the tasks they are completing. As a result of the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015, much has changed in many New Zealand workplaces in the last 3 years since its inception and the Government still has a keen eye on health and safety in the workplace:

  • The Government, through Worksafe, has strengthened worker engagement requirements in health and safety, with a particular focus currently on health and wellbeing issues and high-risk industry workers. The Government’s Health and Safety at Work Strategy highlights the need to focus on what will best reduce harm and to build capacity to understand risks. In the last few years, Worksafe’s (the Government’s enforcement body) focus has largely been on higher risk industries – agriculture, construction, forestry and manufacturing. Looking forward in the next six months, their agenda will also target the Transport and Warehousing sector due to statistically high accident rates both within the workplace and including on-road accidents for commercial vehicles. Concerns identified include fatigue and fleet management issues and a continuing high risk of accidents in loading zones.
  • Worksafe has shifted their focus and increased expectations around businesses’ compliance requirements from ensuring businesses have systems in place which in some businesses was a bit of a ‘tick the box’ exercise to one where they are actively seeking verification from owners that the business’ health and systems are working and actually reflecting in reality what they say they are doing.
  • There is a huge emphasis on the need for consultation between businesses when their activities overlap. This collaboration will require ongoing engagement so risks are identified and actions are taken to proactively manage them. This means ensuring businesses are engaging their contractors and sub-contractors and ensuring they are compliant and meeting expected standards.
  • Directors and others deemed to be Officers, (an Officer is someone who has significant responsibility or influence in the business) are under the spotlight, to verify that they are ensuring health and safety is adequately managed within their organisations. It is still a surprise to many business owners, that they have a duty to actively ensure they understand the health and safety risks in their business, monitor what is happening or not happening and ensure resources are going to the right places to manage and improve health and safety so all of their workers get home safely at the end of their working day. This can include other workers (such as Contractors) in their workplace.
  • Health and safety cases successfully prosecuted by Worksafe are increasing along with the severity of penalties which are designed to ensure everyone in the workplace takes responsibility for their actions or inactions particularly if something goes wrong. If it wasn’t enough for companies to ensure businesses and those in it had good Health and safety practices in place to keep their people safe, now there is now a real incentive improved practice with many prosecutions now in the mid to high hundred of thousands for medium-to-serious breaches. Enforceable undertakings and other enforcement measures such as Provisional Improvement Notices (PINs) orders on companies with serious breaches are also increasing.

Those businesses with a good culture, good systems and processes, coupled with ongoing communication and care for workers, should ensure they are meeting their compliance requirements and at the same time reducing the risks to healthy and safe for their people and the business.

For further information about your business’s health and safety requirements or how to manage your risks, we can help! Give us a call on 0508 424 723 or email info@safebusiness.co.nz.