Health and Safety Landscape in New Zealand

Farmer Freddy is informed about changes to health and safety landscape in New Zealand

Freddy has invited Pebbles around for dinner for a catch up, but Freddy also wants to find out more from Pebbles about the changes to the Health and Safety landscape in New Zealand.

“Hi Dad, sorry I’m late”, says Pebbles, as she rushes through Freddy’s front door.

“It’s ok, better late than never”, Freddy says with a smile.  “It’s good that you are here Pebbles.  I have heard that there is going to a major overhaul to New Zealand’s Health and Safety laws, and I wanted to find out more from you about that.  You keep reminding me that my farm is a work place, and I know that I will be affected by the changes.  So what are they, and how will they affect me?”  asks Freddy.

“Well, there are going to be a lot changes, which have been proposed following the recommendations made by the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety,” Pebbles says as she sits down at the kitchen table.  “The first thing you should know is that there is going to be a new standalone regulator to be known as ‘Worksafe New Zealand’.  Worksafe New Zealand will be established and operational by December 2013,” Pebbles continues.

“Are there any other changes?” asks Freddy.

“Yes,the existing Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 is going to be replaced by a new law, which is going to create new responsibilities and increase the penalties for non-compliance.  The new law is likely to be in place by the end of 2014.”

“New responsibilities, and increased penalties, that sounds ominous?” says Freddy.

“There will be one primary duty holder known as a ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ or ‘PCBU’ for short.  A PCBU captures a range of enterprises including corporate organisations, not-for –profits, and self-employed people operating their own business such as yourself.  There will also be a new due diligence duty on directors and officers of PCBU’s to take active steps to manage health and safety performance,” Pebbles explains.

“So what do I have to do as a PCBU?”  asks Freddy.

“PCBU’s will be required to take ‘reasonably practicable steps’ to ensure safety in the workplace,” Pebbles says.

“That sounds much like the current duty to take all practicable steps,” Freddy says, eager to demonstrate his knowledge.

“Yes, there will be similarities but the Government has not yet defined what reasonably practicable steps will be.  It is intended that the new legislation will provide clearer guidance about the meaning of ‘reasonably practicable steps’,” Pebbles explains, “So we will have to see.”

“So what about the penalties, you mentioned these were also going to increase?”  asks Freddy.

“Yes Dad.  There is going to be a new three tiered hierarchy ranging from a simple breach of the duty (resulting in a fine of up to $100,000.00 for an individual, or $500,000.00 for a corporate), to conduct causing or exposing a person to serious harm (resulting in a fine of up to $300,000.00, or 1.5 million for a corporate), to reckless or intentional conduct causing or exposing a person to serious harm (maximum fine for an individual $600,000.00 or imprisonment up to 5 years, or $3 million for a corporate),” explains Pebbles.”

“Wow, those are significant increases Pebbles.  I will definitely follow the changes with close interest.  It will be a good idea to ensure that I am compliant with the changes before they take effect,” says Freddy.

“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Says Pebbles.

The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document. 

If you would like more information on any of the topics in this document, please contact your usual Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen adviser.


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Philip McCarthy