Health & Safety at Work Act — what is it?


The Health and Safety Reform Bill has passed and the new law — the Health and Safety at Work Act — came into force on April 4, 2016.

The Act is part of “Working Safer: a blueprint for health and safety at work”, and reforms New Zealand’s health and safety system following the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety.

Working Safer is aimed at reducing New Zealand’s workplace injury and death toll by 25% by 2020. It will require leadership and action from business, workers and Government to achieve this goal. The Act’s key emphasis is on everyone in the workplace being responsible for health and safety.

The Act works to focus effort on what matters, based on business risk, control and size:

It reinforces proportionality — what a business needs to do depends on its level of risk and what it can control.

It shifts from hazard spotting to managing critical risks – actions that reduce workplace harm rather than trivial hazards.

It introduces the “reasonably practicable” concept — focusing attention on what’s reasonable for a business to do.

It changes the focus from the physical workplace to the conduct of work — what the business actually does and so what it can control.

It supports more effective worker engagement and participation — promoting flexibility to suit business size and need.

The Health and Safety at Work Act will replace the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. The new law will be supported by regulations.