Posted on: Jul 11, 2013
Workplace health and safety in New Zealand is changing considerably to dramatically reduce serious harm and fatalities.
On July 1 a new workplace health and safety system was launched by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Health and Safety group in readiness for the new Crown agency WorkSafe New Zealand, which takes over the reins in December this year.
The new system is charged with reducing serious harm and fatalities by at least 10 percent by 2016, and 25 percent by 2020.
The regulator will be more visible, more proactive, and will take a firmer stance. Duty-holders, including businesses, employers and employees will be expected to share meaningfully in responsibility for health and safety.
The new system went live on July 1. It was drawn up in the latter part of 2012 in response to the Pike River coal mine tragedy and other events. Analysis of the existing workplace health and safety system highlighted inconsistency and poor oversight. Annually, New Zealand workers were dying at about twice the rate of Australian workers and about six times the rate of those in the United Kingdom.
The new system is considerably more proactive than before, and the regulator does not shoulder sole responsibility for workplace health and safety.
Key changes include the centralised triaging of all notifications to ensure consistency, and a shift in balance toward proactive workplace assessments, away from reactive occurrence investigations. The regulator will continue to attend the scene of accidents, but it will not respond to every notification.
Duty-holders will be expected to play their part, and to review certain health and safety occurrences themselves. These ‘duty-holder reviews’ are an examination of what went wrong and why, and what the duty-holder has decided to do to prevent a recurrence. Duty-holder reviews will be assessed by investigations inspectors for completeness.
WorkSafe New Zealand will lead these changes from December. Legislation enacting the new agency is included in the Health and Safety (Pike River Implementation) Bill 2013, which is being progressed through Parliament.
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