What changes have been made to the health & safety act

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This is the first reform made to the Act in over 20 years, and is designed to balance the desire to protect employers and employees at the workplace, without impeding on efficiency by creating red tape roadblocks.

According to Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse, there is a need for modernisation and understand of the contemporary workplace, stating the new legislation should be “encouraging more communication and co-operation, both within and between businesses.”

Woodhouse is realistic yet positive, stating that achieving lasting safety for New Zealand workers “will require leadership and an attitude change from businesses and workers alike.”

The government notes the key features of the updated Act as:

  • Requiring businesses to identify work-related risks and do what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to eliminate or manage them.
  • Ensuring everyone from company directors to casual labourers have health and safety responsibilities that reflect their ability to influence or control work.
  • A new requirement for all businesses to have effective worker engagement and participation processes for health and safety matters.
  • A new duty on company officers to exercise due diligence when it comes to health and safety.

Industry response has been primarily positive, with many professionals across a variety of different fields believing it would be an improvement.

Chairman of Screensafe, Mark Strong, believes that the new laws will have a positive impact on the New Zealand screen sector. Strong believes that “New Zealand will be seen as a safe place to work”, and could potentially attract international film crews to the country.

Russell Brook, chairman of Auckland’s North Shore Secondary Schools Principals Association says there is a lot to think about. Brook believes it’s important to review almost accidents, stating: “It’s about saying what’s nearly happened and how do we avoid this becoming a reality.” The new act will reportedly not require much change from schools, but will teach students the importance of health and safety.

Regardless of industry, Chen Palmer lawyer James Dunne believes it will just take some time adjusting to you. The new act intends to change behaviour by making everyone accountable, and avoid situations where a workplace may have a first-aid kit, but no one knows where it is. Dunne believes the changes will be benefical, as “Nobody ever died from too much health and safety”.

For more information, visit www.worksave.govt.nz/hswa.

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