How Will The Health And Safety At Work Act 2015 Affect My Business?

The highly debated Health and Safety at Work Bill has passed through the parliamentary process and will become law on 4 April 2016.  Regulations to support the new law will be passed before April 2016.

WorkSafe, the agency responsible for enforcing the health and safety legislation, has announced that it will issue formal guidance to support the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (“the Act”) and its regulations in early 2016. The Act’s predecessor, the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, will remain in force until April 2016.

For many businesses in the Greater East Tamaki region, despite some noteworthy changes in the Act, it will be “business as usual”– you will continue to identify and manage hazards arising in the workplace, and consult with your workers to identify those hazards. If it is not already, now is a fitting time to make health and safety part of your workplace culture.

The Act introduces the concept of a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU). A PCBU will usually be a business entity such as a company, but also includes sole traders, self-employed persons, contractors, government organisations and certain volunteer organisations.

A PCBU does not include a worker or an officer (although the new duties of ‘officers’ will be covered in a separate article in the next newsletter); a householder engaging someone solely to do residential work at your home; or a ‘volunteer association’ (that is volunteers working together for community purposes, with no employees involved).

A PCBU has the primary duty under the Act to control risks to workplace health and safety, and must ensure, so far as is “reasonably practicable”:

  • the health and safety of its workers or those workers who are influenced/directed by the PCBU; and
  • that the health and safety of other people is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.

“Reasonably practicable” means what is or was reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety, taking into account matters such as the likelihood of the hazard or risk occurring, the degree of harm that might result, the common knowledge about the methods to eliminate or minimise on the hazard, and an assessment of the costs of eliminating or minimising the hazard.

There are also specific duties on PCBUs in respect of certain activities which include managing or controlling a workplace including plant and fittings; designing, manufacturing, importing or supplying, plant, substances or structures; and installing, constructing or commissioning plant, substances or structures.

A PCBU is required to engage, so far as is reasonably practicable, with their workers on matters of health and safety. A PCBU must have worker participation practices that give their workers reasonable opportunities to participate effectively in improving work health and safety. The objective is to allow all workers to have a say on matters that will affect their health and safety.

The significant point to take from the new Act is that a PCBU’s duties are linked to the work of the business or undertaking, and not simply to the physical workplace. PCBUs will have to think broadly about who is working in the business or undertaking, the risks that are created by the work to be completed, and who those workers and/or contractors may affect through their conduct.

We are able to prepare or review your health and safety policies, and advise you in respect of your business’ compliance with the new Act.  Sam Houliston, Associate at our Highbrook office, has previously worked as a health and safety prosecutor for the Department of Labour. He can be contacted direct on 09-969-6640 or sam@wynyardwood.co.nz to discuss your requirements or any concerns.