Health and Safety changes afoot for New Zealand

 

Commentary by Tony McKone, Director McKone Consultancy - 12 August 2013

 

Last week the New Zealand Government finally released its response to the recommendations made by the Independent Taskforce on H&S in the Workplace.

 

Essentially, the Government has accepted, in one shape or the other, the 15 recommendations made by the Taskforce.  This marks a significant turning point for NZ, as the recommendations will have serious implications for employers.  This is not a bad thing.

 

The reason for the Taskforce in the first place was due to a need to address a growing problem with poor health and safety in New Zealand workplaces, particularly five major sectors of agriculture, construction, fishing, forestry, and manufacturing.  As I have stated in previous commentary on this issue, sedentary workplaces are also just as much in the spotlight. 

 

The Government has set a timeframe for putting the recommendations into place, and while this will take some time, in my view, employers need to be starting now to look at how they are operating their health and safety systems.  Some of the questions organisation should be asking of themselves include:

 

  • Are we (as employers) fully engaged with our people on H&S in the workplace?

  • Is our Board aware of what the changes will mean for them and their responsibilities?

  • Are our managers capable of dealing with H&S in the workplace or are they “delegating” responsibility to others?

  • Do we have a true tripartite approach to H&S with our workers and their union(s)?

 

The Government’s timeframes mean it will take until 2016 before they expect NZ’s health and safety system to reach a new steady state.  They have already commenced the establishment of a new H&S regulatory body, WorkSafe New Zealand.  Government plans to have new draft legislation before the House by the end of the year and to begin consultation on key regulations and codes of practice and guidelines.

 

It won’t be until June to December 2014 before we start seeing the establishment of a H&S Professionals Alliance, and new programmes focussed on occupational health and safety.

 

I would recommend that organisations start working with their Health and Safety Advisors now to start identifying the capability gaps of managers and looking at ways to build that capability.  Current practice on health and safety, including how you operate your H&S system should also be assessed against the Taskforce’s recommendations.   H&S staff should, if not already doing so, be looking at the Australian Model Law to get a feel for how that legislation will influence the new NZ H&S legislation and start to form advise and thinking for senior management on how the changes will impact on your organisation and what you will need to do to get ready for those changes

 

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