The Changes TO NZ Health and Safety Legislation

These changes are unprecedented in NZ history; the government have set a goal to reduce workplace injuries and deaths by 25% by 2020. The Government are committed and they mean business.

The existing health and safety laws are being thrown out and a new law based on Australian health and safety model is planned to be introduced  on 4 April 2016

Why have the changes been made?

Following the Pike River commission of enquiry it was identified that the NZ health and safety legislation was not fit for purpose. The report said management had done little over the past 20 years to reduce the level of fatalities, illnesses and serious harm accidents in the NZ workplace.

Even though the failure of these systems have an estimated collective cost of $3-4 billion dollars annually or $180 billion over the past 20 years, the driver for these changes is not just about financial loss, it’s about people and the impact it is having on NZ families, communities and business. This is born out of the fact that approximately 850 - 900 NZers have died every year from workplace accidents and work related illness. To put this into perspective, 18,000 families have lost loved ones since 1992. These figures do not count the 250 000 plus NZers who have had serious harm accidents and illnesses over the same period. Many will never work again or have the same quality of life or a normal life, due to accidents and illness that occurred in their workplaces.

For many, these figures will be depressing but this is the reality of what has happened and will continue. We can no longer afford to sit on our hands. If this is not a good enough reason to change our attitude towards making workplaces safer I don’t know what is. It is a travesty that it took the lives of 29 men at Pike River to bring about these changes.

Who does the buck stop with in the work place?

Currently it’s vaguely described as “the person who controls the place of work”. In future it will be what is to be known as a PCBU, Person conducting a business or undertaking a business.

A PCBU is defined as the business owner, a body corporate, a partnership, a board member, a chief executive, a chief financial officer or an officer, or manager at any level of the business who has the ability to influence change. This responsibility will also extend to persons who play a part in the business and or participate in making decisions for the business. The employees of the business will also have greater responsibilities, THE BUCK WILL STOP AT THE TOP.

How will the changes be policed?

A new government regulator, WorkSafe New Zealand, (WSNZ) has been established with performance goals.

Serious budgets have been allocated with the appointment of additional inspectors and a specialist team of accident investigators.

Another group who I call the “Silent regulators,” are the insurance companies. They are getting serious about health and safety related claims and are already making changes to their policy applications re health and safety compliance, and conducting in depth investigations where a health and safety accident related claim is made.

What are the penalties?

Corporate manslaughter is up for consideration by the government.

Penalties for noncompliance are more prescriptive. The following are the maximum penalties for non-compliance to the proposed new health and safety law as applicable to workplaces that will come into effect later this year

If your business has not addressed its health and safety responsibilities, are the following penalties a good enough reason to do so as a cost effective and responsible, business risk management process.



Body corporate

PCBU or an Officer of a PCBU




For reckless conduct in respect to health and safety duty.

A maximum penalty of $3 million  or a term not exceeding five years' imprisonment or both

A maximum penalty of $600,000  or a term not exceeding five years' imprisonment or both


A maximum penalty of $300,000 or a term not exceeding five years' imprisonment or both.


Failing to comply with the health and safety duty and exposing others to risk and harm

$1.5 million





For an offence of failing to comply with health and safety duty






For not reporting a  notifiable events








For not preserving the accident scene







Not keeping notifiable event records for 5 years






For allowing persons to undertake work if regulations require to be authorised (Qualified or trained).






For allowing persons to use plant/equipment or a substance if regulations require to be authorised (Qualified, experienced or trained).





What should businesses do to prepare for this change?

  • Take these changes seriously and plan for them.
  • PCBUs should get up-skilled in health and safety management.
  • Review and bring your existing health and safety systems up-to-date.
  • Research, evaluate and implement electronic health and safety record keeping systems (Hasmate) as recommended by the director’s institute of New Zealand.
  • Seek experienced and qualified advice.
  • Involve your employees in the changes.



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Keep an eye out for March’s article!



  • 20th March 2016 - monthly employers PAYE payment…
  • 28th March 2016 -  Bi monthly GST Return for Jan/Feb 2016…
  • 31st  March 2016 – End of Financial Year for most Business, Record gathering for your accountant…