Health and Safety

Health and safety legislation is administered and enforced by WorkSafe New Zealand.  The primary legislation governing health and safety in the workplace is the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which went into force on 4 April 2016.

Health and safety legislation is administered and enforced by WorkSafe New Zealand.  The primary legislation governing health and safety in the workplace is the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

See: Worksafe: Managing health and safety

Does the Health and Safety at Work Act apply to my organisation?

Your community group’s responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 is determined by your status as either a PCBU or a volunteer organisation.

PCBU or Volunteer organisation – what’s the difference?

Any organisation, individual or group is considered a PCBU when it is ‘conducting a business or an undertaking’. This means any business activities of any size or sort, regardless of whether it is for profit or not. PCBUs are covered by the Act, volunteer organisations are not. How can you tell the difference?

  • If your organisation is wholly made up of volunteers (i.e. there are no employees) then your organisation has no responsibilities under the Act. This does not include independent contractors (i.e. a builder fixing the roof will not count as an employee.) A volunteer is a person who acts on a voluntary basis, whether or not they receive out-of-pocket expenses.
  • If your organisation employs one or more people (not including independent contractors) then your organisation is a “Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking” (PCBU) and is covered by the Act. Even if your organisation only has one employee, under the Act you will have Health & Safety obligations to ALL staff (including voluntary staff).
Is your organisation classified as a PCBU under the HSWA?

Responsibilities of PCBUs

PCBUs must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a work environment that is without health and safety risks. The work environment includes not just the physical work environment (such as lighting, ventilation, dust, heat and noise), but also the psychological work environment (such as overcrowding, deadlines, shift-work, stress and fatigue, drugs and alcohol, etc.)

What does ‘reasonably practicable’ mean?

  • Likelihood of the hazard of risk occurring
  • Degree of harm that might result from the hazard of risk
  • What you knew, or should have known, about the hazard or risk and the ways of eliminating that risk
  • Availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk
  • After finding out all that information, making an assessment including considering whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk

These guidelines are only a brief overview of the Health and Safety requirements. For full information, worksafe has a comprehensive guide to help organisations work through their responsibilities under the Act here.

Your employees’ rights and responsibilities

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, s 45

Employees (including volunteer workers and contractors) should not be expected to undertake work that is unsafe or has unsafe practices. Your employees are entitled to:

  • a work environment in which any risks to their health and safety are identified and managed
  • access to facilities such as toilets, washing facilities and first aid
  • the availability of any training, information and support that is necessary to enable them to do their job safely
  • the right to contribute to the health and safety decisions made about their workplace
  • access to the appropriate personal protective equipment
  • the right to request a  Health and Safety Representative or Health and Safety Committee (large businesses, and small businesses in high-risk industries, must appoint a representative if one has been requested)
  • the right to stop or refuse work if they believe the work is unhealthy or unsafe

On the other hand, employees must:

  • Take reasonable care for their own health safety and that of visitors while at work
  • Make sure they don’t harm anyone else (through either their actions or failure to act)
  • Comply with reasonable instructions, procedures and policies around health and safety, i.e. wearing protective clothing or equipment provided.

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