New legislation has pushed Health & Safety issues right to the top of the agenda for businesses of all sizes in New Zealand (effective April 4th 2016). And there is no longer room for a ‘box ticking’ mentality or lip service if you want to keep on the right side of the law.
At a recent seminar held jointly by Davenports Harbour Lawyers and Bellingham Wallace Chartered Accountants, local businesses learnt more about the likely impact of this new legislation. “It’s now all about businesses being able to demonstrate a safety culture – with owners, directors and other ‘people of influence’ leading from the front,” said senior associate, Emma Monsellier.
What are the legislation changes?
The new legislation holds all stakeholders responsible for health and safety, from workers through to middle and top management. A key area of change is the creation of a new duty holder – the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU). This term encompasses businesses of all sizes: from an owner operator/sole trader to a large corporate entity. The primary duty of the PCBU is to ensure workplace safety – and the penalty for failing to do so could be a fine of up to $3 million.
Workplace safety now encompasses a wider remit and includes the prevention of psychological harm, like stress and bullying, as well as physical injury. Officers (directors, top and mid-tier management) are now responsible for identifying hazards at work and then taking steps to understand and control the risk. This includes a regular review of any incidents in order to fine-tune control measures.
So, what does that mean for businesses that may not quite have all their ducks in a row? It’s not too late according to Emma. Some key actions for immediate focus are:
- Identify hazards. Walk around your business and identify any hazards (sources of risk) and understand the associated risks. Don’t overlook the less obvious risks presented in office environments.
- Involve your team. Consult your staff and encourage them to give you any constructive feedback on workplace safety.
- Make a plan. Devise a manageable policy and set of procedures based on your risk assessment and staff feedback.
- Invite different points of view. Circulate your draft policy and procedures for further feedback. The more engaged your staff are, the better. Keep records of this process by filing emails and meeting minutes.
- Review staff contracts. Review and revise your disciplinary procedures to add non-compliance/breech of Health & Safety legislation and amend or add an addendum to employment contracts to reflect employee responsibility for Health & Safety in the workplace
- Help everyone to play their part. Make sure that everyone in your business is aware of the new Health & Safety policy, its impact the day to day operation of your business and their individual responsibility for health and safety. Do they realise, for example, that non-reporting of a colleague’s ‘near miss’ is now illegal? Create a paper trail to document this process.
- Make health and safety a priority. Make sure health and safety is included as a priority agenda item for team meetings and Board meetings – and that meeting minutes are recorded and filed to show that these discussions took place.
- Review incidents. Review any reported incidents or near misses regularly and amend your policy and procedures to further reduce risk.
- Lead from the front. Let your team see that you are taking Health and Safety seriously – and they will follow suit.
If you need some expert help and advice on Health and safety compliance, talk to Emma Monsellier at Davenports Harbour Lawyers on (09) 9154380.