Health & Safety At Work Act 2015
The Health & Safety At Work Act 2015
Will fines of up to $300,000 and five years imprisonment for individuals who breach their obligations have an impact on height safety?
As a developed nation, we as New Zealanders should not perceive that anyone goes to work expecting to get hurt or killed. However, reducing the death and injury toll in the workplace requires a radical rethink by all sections of the working community. First and foremost, it means that enforcing safety standards must start at the top and all levels of the workforce must be accountable for their duty of care. The new Health & Safety Reform Bill 2015 can be a major step forward in committing business owners, directors, managers and workers do the part in reducing workplace injuries and fatalities.
But if we are to succeed in reducing workplace injuries and fatalities, Enforcement of the Act has to be the strongest way to send a message to all industries that it is criminally negligent to subject workers to danger in the workplace without all practicable steps being taken to ensure their safety. The message must be loud, clear and heard by all as everyone has to play their part in reducing NZ’s workplace injury and death toll by 25 percent by 2020.
Most of the workplace believes The Health & Safety Reform Bill is a step in the right direction. But not only must WorkSafe NZ prosecute breaches of the Act, they also must ensure everyone in the workplace understands their responsibilities and complies with the new legislation. The delivery of the new legislation must be clear and concise for businesses and workers to understand their obligations to provide a safer work environment.
Our attitude to health and safety must change. At present, regulations are being easily misinterpreted or incorrectly applied and it is difficult knowing who has what responsibilities and whether they have done enough to comply. The new Act will help clarify the duties of the individuals in typical employment hierarchies.
Importantly, the Bill introduces the concept of a PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) with the Primary Duty to ensure Health and Safety. A PCBU will usually be a business entity, such as a company, rather than an individual person – unless they are a sole trader or a self-employed person.
The Act defines a worker and their duties. It places due diligence duties on officers of a PCBU (such as company directors or partners) to actively engage in health and safety matters to ensure that the PCBU complies with its duties. If workers are to comply with the new changes, they too will need a stronger voice and this the Act provides. Workers will see greater rights involving health and safety with options to elect health and safety representatives to represent workers who carry out work for a business or undertaking.
Given that companies will be at risk of fines up to three million dollars and individuals fined up to $300,000 and/or up to five-year imprisonment for reckless endangerment, the Act will persuade all sectors of the workforce that it’s now time to stand up and take action in preventing workplace injuries or death.
The Health and Safety Reform Bill is therefore to be welcomed and I am sure we all look forward to the Bill becoming an Act of Parliament. Even if this Act only saves one family from the grief and pain of the untimely loss of loved one in a workplace accident, it will have been worthwhile. That said there is no time to waste and there are several things that businesses can do now to make certain that they comply with the new legislation if and when it is implemented. They can, for example, talk to a height safety professional today for practical solutions which will ensure your working environment meets the minimum of safety obligations, standards compliance and good practices. They can also invest in regular programmes to train their team, which will help them reap the benefits of a safe, positive and efficient work environment where everyone feels valued and protected.
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