Last month the Government announced a reform package that will overhaul the current workplace health and safety legislative framework. It has been described by the Government as "the most significant reform of New Zealand's workplace health and safety system in 20 years".

The "Working Safer" package will involve repealing the Health and Safety in Employment Act (HSE Act). It is intended that the HSE Act will be replaced by a new Health and Safety at Work Act, based on Australian law.

Some of the major changes that the proposed law will include are:

  • the allocation of duties to those people in the best position to control risks to health and safety, as appropriate to their role in the workplace;
  • a new due diligence duty, which means that those persons in governance roles must proactively manage workplace health and safety. The due diligence duty will be owed by directors, chief executives and others in governance roles, but will exclude anyone acting on a voluntary basis; and
  • a new tiered liability regime, which includes fines for body corporates ranging from $500,000 to $3 million and fines for individuals ranging from $100,000 to $600,000. Individuals will also face up to five years imprisonment for reckless conduct offences.

The Health and Safety at Work Bill will be introduced into Parliament in December. The new law and key supporting regulations are expected to be in place by the end of 2014 and will start coming into effect from then.

For Bell Gully commentary on the reform package see our earlier client update: Government to overhaul Health and Safety in Employment Act

The reform package is also outlined in detail in the document "Working Safer" which can be downloaded here: www.mbie.govt.nz/what-we-do/workplace-health-and-safety-reform