Preparing for the new Health and Safety at Work Act

One industry expert offers his advice to employers on preparing for the upcoming changes.

Preparing for the new Health and Safety at Work Act
The new Health and Safety at Work Act comes into force on 4 April 2016. In this first quarter of 2016 we expect businesses to continue to be busy preparing for the changes. For many, the gap analysis that underpins the assessment of whether their business is ready for the new regime has been completed, and the process of importing new processes and systems to plug any gaps identified.

For others, the gap analysis will form an early work stream for 2016. We expect to see businesses looking at the suitability of their current systems and continuing to refine them so as to keep people safe at work. Systems and processes that facilitate and promote sharing information relevant to health and safety will also be a focus.
 
  1. Ongoing monitoring
A gap analysis is a continual process. New industry standards will be implemented, new codes of practice and regulations will be released, the courts will provide guidance and international developments will occur. All of these will impact on whether a business is meeting its health and safety obligations. The landscape constantly evolves such that there is a need to continually ask whether the systems in place are fit for the purpose of keeping people safe at work.
 
  1. Collaboration
We expect the new Act to enhance meaningful collaboration and information sharing between all those carrying out work in and those influencing or controlling work a workplace.. There are also provisions in the Act encouraging active worker involvement in health and safety matters. Businesses will need to look closely at implementing systems so that such collaboration can occur as efficiently and effectively as possible.
 
  1. WorkSafe’s approach
 
Following the implementation of Australia’s health and safety regime in 2011, it was observed that the regulator was initially in education mode. It took time to meet with industry groups and launch safety campaigns in high risk industries for example. Only after this initial education phase did the regulator appear to shift gears by initiating more prosecutions. This was particularly noticeable in relation to incidents at the lower end of the scale.

However, here in New Zealand, there is no expectation of a grace period. This is due to the fact that it is more than 5 years since the Pike River Mining Disaster, draft legislation was first introduced in March 2014, and Worksafe was established and has been active since December 2013.
 
Making sure you’re prepared
 
To help your organisation get ready for the changes the John O’Rourke*, and the Health &  Safety team at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts have prepared 10 key questions that you may want to consider. These questions are designed to help inform your thinking and to quickly help you see if you have any gaps in what you currently have in place.  You can read these questions here.
 
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John O’Rourke from MinterEllisonRuddWatts is a health and safety specialist with Australian and NZ experience. John helps Boards and senior leadership teams drive best practice in H&S Governance, and develops reporting regimes to meet the new due diligence requirements.
 
 

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