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How will NZ’s new WHS bill affect your organisation?

Earlier last year, the New Zealand government passed the Health and Safety Reform Bill, with the intention of reducing the number of injuries and fatalities taking place in businesses across the country. This is particularly important considering the country’s notably lacklustre track record with WHS. According to business.govt.nz, New Zealand workers are 100 per cent more likely to be killed or sustain a serious injury on the job than Australian employees, and 600 per cent more likely than those working in the UK.

The new bill is modelled after a similar one in Australia, which saw the number of work-related deaths drop 16 per cent since 2012, according to WorkSafe New Zealand. While only time will tell how effective New Zealand’s law will be, it seems probable that it will help the country protect its workers to a similar degree.

The bill has now come into effect, so the sooner you have your systems in place, the better. Here are a few ways the new bill might affect your organisation:

1. Primary WHS duty goes to the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU)  

Under the new bill, a PCBU (often defined as a business entity, though it may be a single person) will have the primary responsibility for health and safety in the workplace, as they are typically in the best position to assess risks and make improvements where appropriate.

So far as is reasonably practicable, a PCBU must ensure the safety of its workers by maintaining a secure working environment, providing proper training and supervision and monitoring the health of workers, among other tasks.

2. Business will receive a safety star rating  

Businesses will receive a star rating based on their health and safety management processes.
Businesses will receive a star rating based on their health and safety management processes.

Under a joint effort from ACC and WorkSafe New Zealand, and supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, all companies across the country will now be awarded a safety star rating based on how well they manage their WHS processes. Enterprises that volunteer for the initiative will have their rating exposed to the public.

This may sound daunting, but it’s likely that organisations who participate in the scheme will be able to access a number of key benefits. There have been no official announcements yet, but it’s probable that these incentives will include ACC levy discounts in addition to the general boost to your brand’s reputation.

3. A more proactive approach to WHS  

As business.govt.nz explained, another key change in the bill is the shift away from the more passive style of WHS management, which might include monitoring and reporting workplace hazards to a more proactive approach to safety.

What does this mean from an HR point of view? Essentially this means that you’ll not only need to lead by example, but also hold training sessions on WHS to ensure people across all levels of the business are up to speed on WHS.

Fostering a company culture of identifying potential risks and preventing them before they occur won’t happen overnight, but by preparing for the Health and Safety Reform Bill now, you’ll be in a better position to adjust to the changes when they go into effect in 2016.

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