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RADICAL REFORM OF HEALTH AND SAFETY LAW INTRODUCES REQUIREMENT OF NEW DUTY HOLDER, NEW OFFENCES AND PENALTIES ON DIRECTORS, AS WELL AS NEW DUE DILIGENCE OBLIGATIONS
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This week the Government introduced a new Health and Safety Reform Bill into Parliament. The purpose of the Bill is to repeal the current Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and replace it with a new health and safety law based on the Australian ‘model law’. This is consistent with the recommendations made by the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety in 2013.

The key aspects of the Bill are:

  • Introduction of a ‘person in control of a business or undertaking’ (‘PCBU’) as the central duty holder
  • A new primary duty of care requiring PCBUs to ‘ensure, so far as is reasonably practical, the health and safety of workers’
  • A change in the standard expected of businesses from ‘all practicable steps’ to ‘ensure so far as is reasonably practicable’. The cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising risks will now be relevant to the assessment of what is reasonably practicable primarily when ‘the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk’
  • Increased reporting obligations for serious harm, with notifiable events including the death of any person, a range of injuries or illnesses, and incidents where there is exposure to a serious risk in certain circumstances, without the need for actual harm
  • Specific duties on PCBUs who manage or control workplaces, or fixtures, fittings or plant in them, designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant substances or structures and PCBUs who install, construct or commission plant or structures, as well as workers and self-employed persons
  • A new obligation for PCBUs to ‘consult, cooperate with, and co-ordinate activities’ with other PCBUs having duties in relation to the same matter
  • A new due diligence obligation on company officers (including directors and some senior management) to ensure the PCBU is managing safety appropriately
  • Enhanced powers for health and safety representatives and health and safety committees
  • A raft of new offences, with a maximum penalty of $3 million and up to five years imprisonment
  • New powers for WorkSafe New Zealand and other regulators.

The Bill will be referred to a select committee, which is likely to call for submissions on the Bill over the next two months. We encourage you to assess the Bill and to consider the impact it will have on your workers and workplaces. 

If you wish to make submissions on the Bill, or to discuss ways in which you will need to modify your operations to comply with it when it takes effect, please contact one of our health and safety experts.

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