Changing Landscape in the Workplace

By | July 11, 2016

Changing Landscape in the Workplace – New health and safety legislation comes into force in early April

Organisations should always be aware of their obligations and responsibilities regarding health and safety.

This is even more so now as new law, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, comes into force on Monday, 4 April this year. A summary of the most significant changes is set out below. We follow this with some practical steps to take to give you and your organisation the best chance of complying with the new legislation.

The new legislation imposes an enhanced primary obligation on a PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) to take ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to ensure the health and safety of their workers. PCBUs include employers, principals, self-employed, partnerships and other people who manage or control a workplace. However, if you or your organisation don’t have any employees then you will not be considered to be a PCBU.

The new duty If you are a director of a company or an officer you are required to exercise due diligence to ensure compliance with the new Act. Officers include those who hold positions that allow them to exercise significant influence over the management of a business. ‘Due diligence’ involves taking reasonable steps to:

  • Acquire and keep up-to- date knowledge of work health and safety matters
  • Gain an understanding of the nature of the operations of the business and generally of the hazards andrisks associated with those operations
  • Ensure that the PCBU has available for use, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminateor minimise risks to health and safety
  • Ensure that the PCBU has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazards and risks and responding in a timely way to that information
  • Ensure that the PCBU has, and implements, processes for complying with any duty or obligation, and
  • Verify the provision and use of necessary resources and processes.

The purpose of the due diligence requirement for health and safety compliance is for directors and officers to take a more hands-on approach to health and safety.

Defining the workplace

Earlier drafts of the new legislation originally defined ‘workplace’ in a manner viewed by commentators as being too wide. However, adjustments have been made in order to appease those who were concerned, particularly farmers. ‘Workplace’ will now be defined as where work ‘is being’ or ‘is customarily’ carried out.

This means that the duty of a PCBU in a farming context would not apply to the main dwelling house or to areas of the farm other than farm buildings unless work is being or is customarily carried out at that place.

Investigations, recording and notifying

There are new requirements on PCBUs to carry out internal health and safety investigations into incidents and, in some circumstances, to provide the findings of those investigations to a health and safety inspector. The purpose of an investigation is to identify and address contributing factors to prevent the incident happening again. In addition, there are new obligations concerning the recording and notifying of workplace accidents and serious harm.

Practical steps

The new Act will soon be in force. You should therefore:

  • Familiarise yourself with the new legislation
  • Understand your position under the new Act
  • Review and update the current approach to health and safety of your organisation, business or company
  • Inform your workers
  • Talk with us if you need to, and
  • Above all, don’t leave it too late.

This new legislation increases the penalties for non-compliance and creates a new three-tiered hierarchy of offences.

1. Reckless Conduct: fines up to $3,000,000 or $600,000 and/or up to five years’ imprisonment for individuals

2. Failure to comply with a duty exposing risk of death or serious injury/illness: fines up to $1,500,000 or $300,000 for individuals, and

3. Failure to comply with a duty not exposing death or serious injury/illness: fines up to $500,000 or $100,000 for individuals.

If you’re unsure about these changes or how you and your organisation will be affected then please don’t hesitate to be in touch with us.