No one goes to work expecting to get hurt, sick or killed. But in New Zealand on average 75 people die at work each year. In light of this and the learnings from the Pike River mine disaster in 2010, Health and Safety legislation is undergoing significant change. Originally due to be implemented on 1 April 2015, it is now expected that the changes will come into force later in 2015.
Here is what you need to know:
The legislation places primary responsibility for health and safety on the ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ (PCBU). Essentially the organisation is responsible for all workers (both employees and contractors), customers and visitors to the workplace. The workplace includes anywhere a worker goes or could be expected to go while undertaking their duties.
The Officers (directors, board members, Partners etc) of the PCBU can be held personally liable for health and safety measures. This could be up to 5 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $300,000.
Office holders are expected to undertake positive due diligence to ensure the PCBU is meeting its health and safety obligations. This responsibility cannot be delegated in full. Office holders must:
- Keep up to date with the health and safety matters including the reporting of all incidents within the PCBU
- Understand the hazards and risks of the PCBU
- Ensure the PCBU has resources and processes to eliminate or minimise the risks
- Ensure that all agreed processes are complied with. i.e you cannot assume the agreed systems are being followed and that the safety gear that you have provided is actually being worn.
What do you need to be doing?
Every organisation needs to be aware of and document all hazards and risks within the organisation. These risks then need to be evaluated so that as much of the risk as possible is minimised in a practical manner.
At a governance level, every organisation needs to be discussing health and safety as a standard agenda item. Health and safety must be actively managed. You can’t just assume that ‘everything is fine and under control’.