The HEALTH AND SAFETY IN EMPLOYMENT ACT 1992 requires you as an employer to identify and manage risks that arise within the workplace.
In summary, the Act requires you to:
A significant amendment to the Act takes effect from 5 May 2003 (see the HEALTH AND SAFETY IN EMPLOYMENT AMENDMENT ACT 2002). The effect of this Amendment Act is to:
You must take all practicable steps to ensure that your staff are safe while they're at work. In particular, you must take all practicable steps to:
In the HEALTH AND SAFETY IN EMPLOYMENT ACT 1992, "hazard" means anything that is an actual or potential cause or source of harm. This can include a person's behaviour, and in particular behaviour resulting from:
You must put in place effective systems for identifying existing hazards in your workplace, and also new hazards (before they arise if possible).
You must take steps to deal with all "significant" hazards, which means those capable of causing someone serious harm. Specifically, you must do the following:
You must make sure that your staff have the necessary knowledge for the work they're doing or that they're supervised by someone else who has that knowledge.
Your staff should also be properly trained in the safe use of machinery and substances with which they work and in the use of protective clothing and equipment.
You must record all accidents in a special register kept for that purpose. This includes accidents that did not harm anyone but that might have done so. You must also put measures in place to prevent the accident happening again.
You must notify the Occupational Safety and Health Service (OSH) of any serious injury as soon as possible after you become aware of it. You must then, within seven days after you become aware of it, give OSH a written notice explaining how the injury happened.
There are set forms for notifying OSH of accidents and for the accident register: for these, contact OSH, or see the Schedule to the HEALTH AND SAFETY IN EMPLOYMENT (PRESCRIBED MATTERS) REGULATIONS 1993 (SR 1993/70).
Your duties to record and report accidents also apply to all accidents involving people whom you've employed as independent contractors (self-employed people), rather than as employees.
You're responsible for informing your staff, in a way that they can reasonably understand:
Your staff must have ongoing ready access to this information.
You must also ensure that your staff's health and safety representatives have ready access to enough information about health and safety systems and issues in your workplace so that they can carry out their role effectively.
You must provide your staff with reasonable opportunities to participate effectively in ongoing processes in your workplace for improving health and safety. You must take into account any code of practice for staff participation. (You can download OSH codes of practice from www.osh.govt.nz/order/catalogue/index.shtml#ap.)
If your workplace's health and safety committee or the staff health and safety rep makes a specific recommendation, you must either adopt the recommendation or provide reasons, in writing, why you're not adopting it.
If you have 30 or more staff (whether or not at a single workplace), you and those of your staff who wish to be involved (and any union representing your employees) must co-operate in good faith to develop and maintain a system that sets out the ways in which your staff can participate in health and safety processes. The system must include a process for the system to be reviewed.
This obligation to co-operate in good faith to set up a staff-participation system applies also if you have fewer than 30 staff but one or more of your staff, or a union, requires a system to be set up.
You must allow your staff's health and safety representatives to each have two days paid leave each year to attend approved occupational health and safety courses.
But this is subject to a maximum total number of days for all the representatives, which depends on the size of your staff.
The main duties of employers under the health and safety laws apply also to volunteer workers, if:
But this doesn't include the duties to provide training and supervision and to involve staff in health and safety processes.
Even if your volunteers are not working on an ongoing and regular basis, or are not working in an integral part of your business, you must still take all practicable steps to ensure their health and safety while they are working. In particular you must take hazards into account when you're planning their work.
All your duties that apply in relation to your employees apply also in relation to:
except the duty to involve your employees in health and safety processes.
You must take all practical steps to make sure that nothing your staff do, or fail to do, while at work harms any other person.
It's an offence for an employer:
if they know that this is reasonably likely to cause their staff serious harm. The employer can be imprisoned for up to two years, or fined up to $500,000, or both.
The penalty for failing to comply with the health and safety laws or regulations in other cases is a fine of up to $250,000.
No, it's against the law for an employer or an insurance company to enter into, or offer to enter into, a policy that insures the employer against any fines or infringement fees imposed under the health and safety laws. The penalty for doing this is a fine of up to $250,000.
Any insurance policy that is taken out in breach of this rule is legally unenforceable.
There are a number of practical steps that employers can take in order to comply with the Act. These can include the following:
It's vital that employers keep up good communication with staff in all matters to do with workplace health and safety, so that employees are aware of the procedures they must follow and any emergency action plans that are in place.
It's a good idea for employers to contact OSH for a checklist for complying with the Act and for ensuring that their workplaces are safe. OSH provides training resources for employers on its website at www.osh.dol.govt.nz.
The Occupational Safety and Health Service (OSH) provides information about health and safety issues on its website at www.osh.govt.nz.