The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, comes into being on the 4 April 2016 and gone are the days of hiving this responsibility off to someone else.
The new Act introduces new terms PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) and Officers – anyone with a senior governance role within the organisation. All other employees are now classified as workers and are expected to take care of their own health and safety and not adversely affect others.
So how did we get to this? We already had a Health and Safety in Employment Act which came in during 1992 and focused on elimination and isolating hazards, but then almost 5 years ago the Pike River tragedy happened, which then led to a Royal Commission and then on to this new Act.
The key principles of the new Act are:
- Manage Risk
- Responsibilities not transferable
- People may have more than one duty
- More than 1 person may have the same duty
- Duty as PCBU to consult other PCUBs with the same duty
- PCBU must not levy workers
- No contracting out
- Can’t insure against fines
So coming back to operational issues, what do you do in the event of an accident? The PCUB must immediately on becoming aware of a notifiable event has occurred, contact the regulator. In the past 7 days was acceptable, this has now been reduced to 48 hours. The other concerning event is that if you have Worksafe attend your board meeting and they ask, “what are your greatest risks” and our response may have been unknown, that now can constitutes a crime.
Notifiable events are now deemed to be:
- Notifiable injury or illness
- Notifiable incident
So what can we do to avoid prosecutions:
- Report notifiable events
- Preserve incident sites
- Keep all records of notifiable events for at least 5 years
- Know our duties under the Act
- Manage foreseeable risks and effectively lead from the top
The 4th April 2016 will herald a new dimension in workplace with new terms and new responsibilities and there is nowhere where we can claim ignorance as a defence.