6 things EVERY business needs to know
Each year 1 in 10 workers are harmed and more than 200,000 claims are lodged with ACC.
Current legislation focuses on passive compliance and has allowed a culture where companies can create health and safety policies; train their staff, and consider their jobs done.
The “Health and Safety reform bill” (which is currently before parliament) will replace 22 year old legislation and will require more proactive management of health and safety issues in the workplace, as well as implementing harsher penalties for non-compliance. Importantly, changes will affect directors and senior management in companies of all sizes.
The 6 key changes are:
1 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.
2 There will also be a positive due diligence obligation on officers (including company directors and senior managers) to take specific steps to actively manage workplace health and safety.
3 Harsher penalties, with fines increased from $500,000 to $3,000,000 and up to five years imprisonment;
4 A new test to determine what is ‘reasonably practical’, based on risk of harm occurring;
5 An increased emphasis on worker participation in health and safety
6 A higher level of detail in regulations and codes of practice so duty holders are better able to understand their obligations.
While it is obvious that the current system is not working, I question whether employers and contractors will actually be able to determine how far their responsibilities go. If responsibility for health and safety is “everyone’s”, then I believe that what will occur in reality is a paper-shuffling exercise, where each party busily documents their compliance with the law instead of focussing on educating and engaging with workers on health and safety issues.