Date: 27th July 2015
Changes to health and safety (H&S) laws are a step closer, with a select committee reporting its recommendations back to Parliament. The Bill is expected to be passed later this year and there will be some months before it comes into effect. During this time government will provide further guidance to help businesses understand what the new law means for them, so you will have plenty of time to prepare.
In the meantime, let’s clear up six common misconceptions about the health and safety law reforms.
False. It applies to all businesses in New Zealand, regardless of size. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that your business will need to do anything differently, if you already take a considered approach to H&S.
False. The new law emphasizes proportionality. What you need to do will depend on the level of risk and what you can reasonably control. What you need to identify, and take practical steps to manage, are critical risks to the people in your workplace – including visitors and customers. These can range from noise levels to slippery floors, heavy machinery to hazardous substances.
False. The most important thing to do costs nothing. Talk with your employees about how to work safely. Expert advisors may be useful if the risks you need to manage are detailed and technical – see these tips on choosing the right advisor if this applies to your business. You can also contact WorkSafe for advice.
False. High penalties only come into play for employers who recklessly or persistently flout safety management steps. If you already have sound H&S policies and practices in place, you’re in a good position to stay compliant when the law changes. If not, there’s plenty of time to fix this – and keep those in your workplace safe and healthy.
False. Again, penalties such as hefty fines and imprisonment are only imposed in extreme circumstances. For example, if an employer removes safety measures put in place after a WorkSafe inspection, and a worker is seriously injured as a result. In general, WorkSafe aims to support those who show a genuine willingness to comply.
False. Paperwork does not equal managing risk, and managing risk does not equal paperwork. You only need documents if this is the best way to manage and minimise critical risks. Putting things in writing is a useful tool for good communication, but what’s most important is for you and your employees to discuss safety management.