The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 came into force on 4 April 2016
The Act works to focus effort on what matters, based on business risk, control and size, with the key emphasis being everyone in the workplace being responsible for health and safety.
There is a duty imposed on employers to engage with employees on an ongoing basis on matters concerning health and safety such as:
- identifying hazards and assessing risks
- eliminating/minimising hazards and risks
- considering the adequacy of facilities
- any proposed changes to systems and procedures
For many businesses this will be facilitated through health and safety representatives and committees. All large businesses (regardless of risk) and small businesses with fewer than 20 employees in high risk sectors will be required to have a health and safety representative, only if an employee asks for one. One individual may represent all employees, or the workplace can be divided into separate workgroups, each with an individual representative. A health and safety committee must also be established on request of the representative or five or more employees.
Small businesses (fewer than 20 workers) in lower risk sectors will be excluded from this requirement.
The confinement to high-risk sectors is aimed at simplifying compliance in businesses where the nature of the business or the number of employees makes it difficult to justify the cost of enforcing more formal workplace procedures. Although the classification of high-risk industries was initially confusing, regulations have been drafted which more clearly set out the captured sectors. These are:
• Aquaculture (excluding onshore aquaculture)
• Forestry and logging (excluding gathering kauri gum, native orchids, pine cones, resin or mushrooms)
• Fishing, hunting and trapping
• Coal or other mineral mining or quarry operations
• Food product manufacturing (excluding bakery products)
• Water supply, sewage and drainage services
• Waste collection, treatment, and disposal services
• Building construction
• Heaving and civil engineering construction
• Construction services (excluding installation of curtains or fly wire screens)
• Any businesses relating to:
- Adventure activities
- Major hazard facilities
- Mining operations
- Petroleum exploration
The above sectors are classified as high-risk due to their persistently high fatality and serious injury records. Notably, farming is not included.
The functions of the representatives and committees include: investigating complaints of employees, inquiring into any apparent risks, monitoring measures taken by the employer, inspecting workplaces, making recommendations, promoting the interests of employees, and representing any individual worker in relation to any health and safety issue.
Employers have a duty towards representatives in ensuring they are consulted with on any relevant matter, allowing them as much time and information as necessary to perform their functions, and, adopting any reasonable recommendation made by the representative. Employers must also allow representatives to attend initial (as prescribed by NZQA) and ongoing training. This is paid leave, and employers must also pay for any training fees and reasonable expenses incurred e.g. travel/accommodation. The maximum total number of days' paid leave an employee is allowed in a year is based on the number of employees working for the business:
• 1-5 employees - 2 days
• 6-50 employees - 6 days
• 51-280 employees - 1 day for every 8 employees
• 281+ employees - 35 days plus 5 days for every 100 employees
Whether or not your workplace is high-risk the obligations under the Act, and penalties for breaching those obligations, will increase for all employers across a broad spectrum of issues.
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