Bill aims for safer workplaces

FROM THE BEEHIVE

ERIC ROY
Last updated 14:14 12/03/2014

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The biggest health and safety reforms in 20 years are one step closer with the introduction of the Health and Safety Reform Bill.

The bill is part of the National Government's Working Safer reform package, which will substantially improve workplace health and safety across all sectors in New Zealand - especially in high-risk areas like forestry.

The new law will be supported by stronger enforcement and education, and will play a major role in meeting our target of reducing New Zealand's workplace injury and death toll by 25 per cent by 2020.

A well-functioning health and safety system is one where workers get home safely every day. But achieving this is not something Government can do alone.

Businesses and workers, alongside the new regulator WorkSafe New Zealand must all share responsibility.

The bill will beef up penalties for non-compliance and will place more regulatory responsibility on people at every level of the supply chain to ensure their workplace is safe.

This will be particularly important in contractor-dominated sectors such as forestry. The law will also improve worker participation to ensure workers know how to keep themselves and their colleagues safe.

Good health and safety is good for business. It is an investment in improved productivity.

Specifically, the Health and Safety Reform Bill will:

Put more onus and legal requirements on managers and company directors to manage risks and keep their workers safe.

Require greater worker participation.

Establish stronger penalties, enforcement tools, graduated offence categories and court powers.

Amend the WorkSafe New Zealand Act 2013, Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, Accident Compensation Act 2001, Employment Relations Act 2000 and other acts.

Create the new Health and Safety at Work Act, replacing the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. It is expected to pass into law by the end of the year and will come into force in April 2015.

The bill will be supported by two phases of regulations, expected to be released for consultation later this year.

WorkSafe New Zealand will support businesses and workers in the transition and beyond with education and information.

Keeping our workers safe and mitigating risks is everyone's responsibility.

Eric Roy is MP for Invercargill.

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- The Southland Times

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