The forestry and farming industries continue to be high hazard industries despite their importance to our economy. Each year 1 in 10 workers are harmed and more than 200,000 claims are lodged with ACC.
Our current health and safety system is comprised of:
- The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (“HSE Act);
- Various supporting regulations; and
- Codes of practice and guidance material.
This three tier model imposes a range of obligations on employers, principals, employees, contractors, suppliers and people who control a place of work, to take all practicable steps necessary to ensure health and safety at the workplace. This system has not worked.
To address the failure of the current health and safety system, the government is intending to repeal the HSE Act and replace it with the Health and Safety at Work Act. This new Act will bring in significant changes including:
- The creation of new primary duty holders, being a person in control of a business or undertaking (“PCBU”). The PCBU is required to ensure the health and safety of workers and others while at work.
- There will also be a positive due diligence obligation on officers (including company directors and some managers) to take specific steps to actively manage workplace health and safety.
Other changes will include:
- A new test to determine what is ‘reasonably practical’, based on risk of harm occurring;
- Harsher penalties with fines increased from $500,000 to $3,000,000 and up to five years imprisonment;
- An increased emphasis on worker participation in health and safety; and
- A higher level of detail in regulations and codes of practice so duty holders are better able to understand their obligations.