The next stage in New Zealand’s biggest health and safety reform in 20 years arrived on Monday, with the introduction into Parliament of the Health and Safety Reform Bill.  The Bill largely retains most of the key changes set out in the Health and Safety Reform Bill - Exposure Draft, which was released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in October 2013 (see our FYI on the Exposure Draft here).

Key reforms retained from the Exposure Draft include:

  • requiring officers to exercise due diligence to ensure that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) complies with their duties;
  • substituting the requirement to take “all practicable steps” with steps that are “reasonably practicable” for a PCBU to take;
  • broadening the coverage of the health and safety legislation to capture contractors;
  • creation of three tiers of offences relating to breaches of health and safety duties, including significantly increased penalties (fines of up to $3million and imprisonment not exceeding 5 years);
  • requiring all PCBUs to have worker participation practices that are appropriate to the workplace; and
  • amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 to specifically allow employees to raise personal grievances based on health and safety reasons.

Key differences from the Exposure Draft include:

  • removing liability for a failure to comply with an officer’s health and safety obligations from certain office holders, including a member of a governing body of a local authority and a trustee of a school board. These office holders are still included in the definition of “officer”, but will not be deemed to have committed an offence or be liable for penalties / imprisonment; and
  • narrowing the definition of “officer” by no longer including persons who “participate in” making decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part, of the business of the PCBU. However, the definition does not provide any further examples, apart from chief executive, of people who make such decisions and will therefore be included in the definition.

The Health and Safety Reform Bill is expected to pass into law by the end of the year and will come into force in April 2015. The Bill will be supported by two phases of regulations, expected to be released for consultation later this year.

If you would like any further information about the Bill and advice on how it will affect your organisation, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will of course keep you informed and, once the Bill has been referred to the Select Committee, we’ll be on hand to help draft submissions on the Bill.