We now have some certainty about the future of health and safety law in New Zealand: on Friday the Transport and Industrial Select Committee finally reported back on the Bill.
Five of the key changes to the Bill (some of which had been well-rehearsed in the media) include:
- Employers must still engage with employees and contractors, and must have worker participation practices appropriate to the workplace, but workplaces with fewer than 20 employees will be exempt from the:
- Requirement to have health and safety representatives, if requested; and
- Requirement to have a health and safety committee, if requested,
although they can still choose to do so.
- Allowing employers to carry-over existing worker participation systems.
- Requiring WorkSafe to assist in resolving any issue where a workplace has been shut-down by a workplace safety representative as soon as is practicable. This change was to allay fears that New Zealand does not replicate the sometimes lengthy shut-downs that Australian businesses report enduring.
- Clarifying that where there are overlapping health and safety duties (for example with multiple operators on a single site), each one must discharge their duty to the extent that have the “ability to influence and control the matter” as opposed to the “capacity” to influence and control, recognising that sometimes a party is powerless.
- The definition of “officer” in a company who holds duties (and who is potentially liable) is much narrower. In addition to directors and partners, it will include a person whose position allows them “to exercise significant influence over the management of the business of undertaking”. The example given is of a Chief Executive Officer. Previously it potentially caught a number of managers and health and safety advisors, which caused considerable consternation.
If you would like further information on the Health and Safety Reform Bill, including what you need to do to comply, please contact Shima Grice.