Health and Safety

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

By Lizandra Bailey

Article featured in Total Property - Issue 1 2016

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) represents the most significant reform to New Zealand workplace health and safety systems in 20 years.

The HSWA is modelled on the Australian Model Work Health and Safety Act (used as a template for Australian State legislation) with some adaptions for New Zealand conditions.

From 6th April 2016, anyone who has some involvement with premises that are used as work places will have responsibilities under the HSWA. This includes landlords, tenants, construction businesses, property managers, tenants, body corporates, directors and also workers and contractors engaged by those businesses.

Key Changes include:
The new Act introduces the term “person conducting a business or undertaking” or a “PCBU”.

Commercial landlords, tenants, body corporates and property managers will be PCBUs under the HSWA. Anyone who is a PCBU has the primary duty under the Act to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that no one (including their workers) is put at risk as a result of their business.

Any PCBU which manages or controls a workplace or any fixtures, fittings or plant at a work place or is involved in the design and construction of a workplace, has a specific duty to ensure the workplace is without risks to the health and safety of any person. PCBUs will need to shift their focus from hazard spotting and the physical workplace itself, to the nature of work they undertake and what they can control.

Businesses must now take a collaborative approach to health and safety matters to prevent any gaps in the management of risks. Businesses will need to consult with, provide relevant information, and allow input to decision making, to their workers likely to be affected by health and safety matters.

Directors and those with significant levels of responsibility in a PCBU now have a duty of due diligence to understand the risks associated with the operation of the PCBU and take steps to ensure that the PCBU complies with its obligations under the Act. There are significant consequences for those officers who do not comply with this duty and there is no way to contract out of it.

There are significant increases in fines and terms of imprisonment which can be imposed under the HSWA. These include a maximum fine of $3,000,000 for corporates and up to $600,000 for individuals. There is no ability to obtain an indemnity or insurance for any fines under the Act. Any attempt to do so is an offence under the Act and a fine of $250,000 for corporates and $50,000 for individuals apply.

The new Act introduces the “reasonably practicable” concept – focusing attention on what’s reasonable for an individual business to do.


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