The Health and Safety Reform Bill had its first reading last month and has been referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee for consideration. The committee has called for submissions on the Bill. There is a very short submission period, with submissions due to close on 11 April 2014. The committee is due to report back to Parliament on the Bill by 13 September 2014.

The Bill is part of the Government’s “Working Safer” package, which has been described as the most significant reform in New Zealand health and safety law in the past 20 years.

Some of the major changes that the Bill proposes include:

  • 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 $50,000 to $600,000. Individuals will also face up to five years imprisonment for reckless conduct offences.

The Bill will replace the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and the Machinery Act 1950.

The Government has indicated that it expects the Bill to be passed into law by the end of this year and to come into force in April 2015. The timing of the general election may, however, impact on this.

The majority of the Bill will have a deferred commencement date to allow sufficient time for regulations under the new regime to be developed, including regulations regarding mining and other high hazard industries.

For more detailed information on the Bill see our earlier client update here.