The New Zealand Government intends to replace the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, an Act based on the Australian model  work health and safety laws though adapted for New Zealand conditions.

The proposed reform should benefit businesses which operate in both the Australian and New Zealand jurisdictions by reducing their costs of ensuring legal compliance in the work health and safety space.

The Health and Safety Reform Bill (Bill) is currently before the New Zealand Parliament.  It is expected that the Bill will come into force in the second half of 2015.

The main changes introduced by the Bill include:

  • a change of terminology from “duty holder” to the more inclusive term of a “person conducting a business or undertaking” (PCBUs) as a means to assign duties to those people in the best position to control risks to health and safety in the workplace;
  • a clearer test to determine what is a “reasonably practicable” action for PCBUs to consider when managing health and safety risks;
  • an express requirement to undertake consultation with other PCBUs that may owe a duty in relation to the same matter;
  • a positive due diligence duty required for officers of PCBUs that requires them to actively manage workplace health and safety; and
  • a tougher penalties structure.

Interestingly, the Bill arises from recommendations made by an independent workplace health and safety taskforce which was established following the November 2010 Pike River Mine disaster in which 29 miners were killed and 2 miners were injured after a series of underground explosions rippled through the mine.