Shake-up for Health and Safety penalties
Under the current law, fines of more than $100,000 for Health and Safety infringements are common and reparation orders of up to $250,000 made.
These figures are likely to increase dramatically under a new Health and Safety at Work Act being proposed by the Government.
The act follows the inquiry into the Pike River disaster, but will apply to all work places.
The proposed act significantly increases fines and terms of imprisonment for offences. It also strengthens the roles of inspectors and Health and Safety worker representatives. Risks must be identified. The responsible person must then eliminate the risks so far as reasonably practicable.
If the risk cannot be eliminated, then it must be minimised as far as reasonably practicable. Employers There is a duty on employers to ensure the health and safety of workers and others affected by the work.
If an event occurs they must notify the government of the event, preserve the incident site, and keep records of what occurred.
Employers must also engage with workers over health and safety and provide opportunities to participate in health and safety discussions.
Employers must arrange elections of health and safety representatives to represent their workers and then consult with the elected representative.
The elected representatives must be allowed time for training and for them to carry out their health and safety role.
They must also be paid their normal rate of pay while doing the role.
Health and safety representatives can issue Provisional Improvement notices and Cease Work notices.
Workers can decide to cease unsafe work if there is a serious risk to health or safety by an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard ( except for inherently dangerous occupations).
They can be required to carry out alternative work instead. Self-employed The self- employed must ensure their own health and safety, as well as that of workers, visitors etc. Company officers Officers of companies and other entities must ensure they keep up to date with health and safety matters and ensure the entity implements processes to comply with the act. Employees and visitors Workers and visitors must take reasonable care of their own health and safety, not harm others and comply with instructions and policies.
The duties are not transferable and a person can have more than one duty. More than one person can have the same duty. If so they must consult, cooperate and co- ordinate with each other.
Volunteers and trustees
There are exceptions in the proposed act so that volunteers and trustees of state and integrated schools are not personally liable for breaches, but the organisation, such as a school, will be liable. Penalties The sanctions under the act have been significantly increased. Individuals exposing a person to the risk of death or serious injury/ illness can be sentenced to a five-year prison term, or a fine of $600,000, and the maximum fine for a company is going to be $3 million.
Everyone will need to be aware of their obligations under the act and take steps to ensure they comply.
Contracting out of the act is prohibited and it is not lawful to insure against fines.