Health and Safety Reform Bill Changes

Changes to Health and Safety laws are another step closer with the Select Committee recently reporting its recommendations back to Parliament.

Some of the key changes from those previously publicised include:
Clarification of “officer” - amended to people who exercise significant influence over the management of the business or undertaking.  The officer duty will only apply to those in very senior roles, e.g. Directors, partners or chief executives.  People who advise or make recommendations will not be “officers”. Further clarifications are expected.

Changes to worker engagement and participation processes - Low risk businesses with fewer than 20 workers are not required to have a representative or committee elected when requested by a worker.  New regulations will define which industries will fall into the high risk sectors.  Small businesses that fall into this category will be required to hold elections for health and safety representatives and committees if requested to do so. This change nothwithstanding, every organisation will have duties to engage with workers and to have effective worker participation practices regarding health and safety.

Coverage of volunteers remains the same as it is under present law, which distinguishes between casual volunteers and volunteer workers. Typically PCBUs will only owe duties where ongoing and regular work is performed.
Rural business’ duty to their workplace clarified.  The management and control does not apply to recreational users coming on to rural land, apart from specific areas where work is being carried out at that time.

Businesses do not owe a duty to people who are on or in a workplace for an unlawful purpose. i.e. trespassers.

Reduced time limit for prosecution from two years to one, with the possible extension of up to 12 months if certain criteria are met.

The Health and safety Reform Bill will now go through the remaining stages in Parliament before it becomes law - possibly later this year. The most effective way to manage your health and safety obligations – both existing and future – is by way of a systematic approach. There is a small window to get your workplace in order before the new Act arrives. Why wait another day?

Paddy Battersby, Battersby HR Consulting, , Phone 09 838 6338

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