Understand the Health & Safety at Work Act in NZ

By Craig Carlyle, director at Maintenance Transformations

The Health & Safety at Work Act lays out a series of guides, codes and insightful best practices around which every health and safety measure should be based. In particular, the Act provides businesses with an understanding of who is responsible, what they should do, and how they should act in situations in which health and safety is at stake.

So, what exactly are the responsibilities of businesses in New Zealand under the Health and Safety at Work Act?

Reasonably identifying the hazards and risks of the business.

While most hazards and risks are obvious, it’s not always clear what might be dangerous and what’s not. Partnering with a responsible and reliable third-party like can be tremendously advantageous for businesses who want an objective assessment of potential hazards and risks.

Establishing a system to manage risks and hazards long-term

It’s not enough that business leaders simply be aware of the risks and hazards present in their business. Appropriate action must be taken to ensure a comprehensive system is in place for avoiding and responding to hazardous situations. Workers should be included in the development of health and safety programs – in fact the Act requires it. According to the Act reference guide, “workplaces have better health and safety outcomes when workers have a say about health and safety. Workers are the eyes and ears of the business and know where the health and safety pressure points are.”

Ensure workers have the competencies and training required to do the job safely

While this may seem obvious, many businesses struggle to know just how competent and well-trained their workers are until something goes wrong. Businesses should not wait for something to go wrong. Instead, businesses should partner with their workers and external sources to better grasp the level of safety their workers employ in their work. They should also carefully assess their current training programs, and analyse whether they are adding value to the protection of  their business and their workers.

Responsibilities for workplace incidents

Okay, but what happens if something does go wrong? When something does go wrong, WorkSafe will triage their response based on the following criteria:

* Does the business have a health and safety system in place?

* Was the hazard properly identified?

* Was/were the victim(s) made aware of the hazard?

* Was/were the victim(s) inducted?

* Was/were the victim(s) trained and competent in the task?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no”, then you likely have a problem. If you can firmly answer each question with “yes”, however, WorkSafe will be more incline to partner you in resolving the issue at hand.

Craig Carlyle is director at Maintenance Transformations. His expertise lies in the practical application of maintenance and health and safety management systems in the workplace. He is also a life member of the Maintenance Engineering Society of NZ.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Xpress Engineer NZ, NZ Engineering News or the parent company, Hayley Media.