Health & Safety at Work Act. Are you ready?
9 October 2015
Health & Safety at Work Act. Are you ready?

Worried about the new Health and Safety at Work Act?

The good news is, if you’re already complying with current legislation, you’re in pretty good shape for the new law, due in April 2016.
The main changes are around accountability. Clarifying who’s responsible for health and safety (H&S); and everyone’s obligations for eliminating or minimising H&S risks at work.
Read on to learn more about what to expect...
Expect more paperwork.
Yes, you may well groan, but us Kiwi’s are pretty poor at keeping safe.
In NZ, we’re twice (twice!) as likely to be killed or suffer serious harm compared to Australia, and six times as likely as those in the UK. Yikes!
She’ll be right, right?
Wrong. In an effort to keep everyone safe, the focus of the law changes from monitoring and recording health and safety incidents to proactively identifying and managing risks. That seems like a good idea in theory.

Key changes to look out for:

New term - PCBU

Everyone loves a good acronym, and this one takes the cake. PCBU stands for Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking.
Despite its name, a PCBU is usually a business entity, such as a company, rather than an individual person. (But you could be a PCBU if you are a sole trader or a self-employed person.)
As a PCBU, you have the primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of your workers and others affected by the work your business carries out.
What is the primary duty of care?
The primary duty of care requires your business to ensure:
1.     The health and safety of your workers (or workers influenced or directed by you) as the PCBU (for example contractors)
2.     That the health and safety of other people is not put at risk from work carried out by your business (for example visitors and customers).

PCBUs will need to work together

Because your business has duties to workers affected by your work, not just to those that work for you, there can be some overlap.
You will often need to coordinate activities with other PCBUs to meet your shared responsibilities even if you don’t have a direct contractual relationship with each other.
Say on a building site for example:
  • The head contractor will have a duty to the workers that work for them.
  • The head contractor will also have a duty to the workers on the site that it influences or directs (because the head contractor usually determines the sequencing of work and other details that may affect all the workers on site).
  • The subcontractors will also have a duty to the workers that work for them.
  • The head contractor and the subcontractor should consult each other about the job requirements, the skills required of the workers, any health and safety risks associated with the work, and what each will do to control the risks.
  • Subcontractors will also have a duty to each other’s workers. For example, the activities of a scaffolding PCBU can affect the safety of other workers on site.

What are the duties of upstream PCBUs?

Work health and safety is everyone’s responsibility.
This means that PCBUs who are upstream from the workplace (for example equipment suppliers) also have a role to play in managing risks to health and safety at work.
For example where scaffolding is used in a workplace, each PCBU in the chain must play its part to ensure the health and safety of workers and others who may interact with the scaffolding. These PCBUs include the engineer who designs the scaffolding, the scaffolding manufacturing company, the scaffold hire company as both the supplier and usually the installer of the scaffold, as well as the client who commissions the scaffold.

What do you need to do?

Think carefully about what could go wrong in your business and how to manage your health and safety risks.  
  • Identify H&S hazards and risks, and take steps to prevent these from happening.
  • Make sure your H&S policies are led by management, understood by all staff and reviewed regularly.
  • Determine how you will co-ordinate activities with the other PCBUs when you need to.
  • Make health and safety part of your workplace culture.
  • Visit the Worksafe NZ website for full information and updates
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