New Zealand's workplace health and safety system faces a major overhaul following this morning's release of Working Safer - A Blueprint for Health and Safety at Work by the Government. Working Safer outlines a "package of changes" aimed at improving New Zealand's workplace health and safety system across the board to deliver a new, high functioning system.

The reforms are the most significant in 20 years and will affect people operating at all levels of the workforce, from the worker to the director.

The initiatives broadly accept the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety in New Zealand. This includes the introduction of a proposed new Act to replace the current Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. The Act will be the Health and Safety at Work Act and it is expected to be introduced to Parliament in December 2013. This is modelled on the Australian Model Workplace Health and Safety Law and focusses on persons conducting a business or undertaking (PBCU) and imposes new due diligence duties on directors. Regulations, guidance and approved codes of practice will be developed to provide guidance.

Other key reforms include:

  • High risk sectors will be focussed on as will major hazard facilities which have potential for major one-off catastrophic events;
  • Implementation of stronger penalties;
  • Greater worker participation;
  • A new Health and Safety professional body will be introduced that will implement a workforce development place to lift capability and knowledge at all levels; and
  • Greater enforcement tools for WorkSafe inspectors.

We will be updating you further with details of these reforms and their practical implications in the near future.

For more information, please follow the link to Working Safer.