The proposed Health and Safety at Work Act (HSW Act) is likely to be passed in the second half of 2015. Recently, the MBIE released consultation drafts of the Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2015 and the Health and Safety at Work (Major Hazard Facilities) Regulations 2015. (Click here to read Kensington Swan’s newsflash on the release of exposure draft regulations). Worksafe New Zealand has also recently released a helpful health and safety checklist for small construction sites which will help those working in these environments to ensure compliance with the new health and safety regime. (Click here for the checklist).
Under the existing Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act) and associated regulations, a business proprietor (such as a builder) has a large number of specific health and safety duties. While you do have to know your specific obligations, in most cases they boil down to taking all practical steps to ensure no one is harmed by your work or within your workplace.
The proposed HSW Act will differ from the current HSE Act in two important ways. First, the penalties are more onerous. Secondly, much greater liability will be imposed on the directors and senior employees of the businesses concerned. All directors, partners, trading trustees, and senior managers of a business must exercise ‘due diligence’ to ensure their business complies with its duties, and they will face heavy penalties if they don’t.
Due diligence includes taking reasonable steps to become (and remain) informed about health and safety issues, and to fully understand the operations, hazards and risks involved in the running of your business. Prudent individuals will ensure that their business uses appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise those risks, that it gathers information about incidents, hazards and risks, and that it acts on that information promptly. If you are a business owner in a senior position at your company, it would be wise to ensure that your business or company implements processes for complying with its duties and obligations.