Health and Safety Law Reform Announced

On 7 August 2013, the Minister of Labour announced significant reform to the Health and Safety legislation. It is expected that a Bill will be introduced later this year, providing for a new law, the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), to replace the current Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSEA). The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is leading the implementation of the reforms. A new Crown agent, WorkSafe New Zealand, has been set up and will be fully operational later this year. WorkSafe New Zealand will be in charge of the health and safety regulatory functions.

The HSWA will be based on the Australian health and safety model and the aim is for the HSWA to become law at the end of 2014.

Currently, under the HSEA, the "person who controls a place of work” has the duty to "take all practicable steps to ensure” safety. Currently, where a body corporate fails to comply with the HSEA, any of its officers, directors or agents "who directed, authorised, assented to, acquiesced in or participated in the failure” are also liable for the offence. Under the new law, the person "conducting or undertaking a business" (PCBU) will be required "to ensure, insofar as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and others affected by the work”. The proposed law will also create a due diligence obligation on officers and directors of the PCBU to proactively manage workplace health and safety.

Under the new HSWA, there will be new offences and higher penalties. A tiered liability regime will be introduced, ranging from "reckless conduct” (with penalties up to $3m for a body corporate, and $600,000 or five years’ imprisonment or both for an individual), to "failure exposing to serious risk”, to simple "failure” (punishable by up to $500,000 for a body corporate and $100,000 for an individual).
For an overview of the key changes and the process see MBIE’s website here

Image creative commons licensed by orangesky3.

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