Health and safety and­home ac­ci­dents


The Health & Safety at Work Act came into ef­fect on April 4 and ap­plies to all work­places. I am of­ten asked how it ap­plies to health and safety in the home.

The gen­eral po­si­tion is that the Act only ap­plies to work­places so the du­ties un­der the Act do not ap­ply in the or­di­nary do­mes­tic sit­u­a­tion.

One mem­ber of the house­hold will not have du­ties or be pros­e­cuted un­der the Act if an­other mem­ber of the house­hold or a vis­i­tor is in­jured in the home or while on a fam­ily out­ing.

But, what is the sit­u­a­tion if the place where the in­jury oc­curs is a work­place for some but not others?

The fam­ily mem­ber at home will not usu­ally be con­duct­ing a busi­ness or un­der­tak­ing so they are not li­able as a per­son con­duct­ing a busi­ness or un­der­tak­ing (PCBU).

That ap­plies even if others are there do­ing work, for ex­am­ple a trades­per­son in the home or a coun­cil worker at the park.

There is also a spe­cific ex­emp­tion for peo­ple who oc­cupy a home and are get­ting work done at the home, for in­stance an elec­tri­cian around to fix the wir­ing or a builder to fix a door. That does not mean that the home­owner or oc­cu­pier can ig­nore health and safety is­sues be­cause they still need to take care not to in­jure others.

Firstly, be­cause no one re­ally wants to in­jure some­one com­ing to their home to visit or work and se­condly, be­cause other Acts (for ex­am­ple the Crimes Act) cover in­jur­ing others by a lack of care, man­slaugh­ter etc.

If the home is be­ing used as a work­place, such as work­ing from home, or hav­ing others work from your home, then the home­owner/ oc­cu­pier will be con­duct­ing a busi­ness or un­der­tak­ing and will be cov­ered by the Health & Safety at Work Act.

An in­spec­tor from Work Safe will need a war­rant to en­ter a home whereas they are al­lowed to en­ter other work­places with­out a war­rant.

Work­ers do­ing work at a do­mes­tic res­i­dence are still cov­ered by the Health & Safety at Work Act and their em­ployer has to en­sure their safety and that of the home­owner/vis­i­tors etc at the res­i­dence.

So the elec­tri­cal com­pany has to en­sure its em­ployee is not in­jured in the home and that the em­ployee does not in­jure others in the home.

PCBU’s will have lim­ited con­trol over the safety of some­one’s home but must take all prac­ti­ca­ble steps to iden­tify and elim­i­nate or min­imise haz­ards.

One of those steps may be turn­ing down the work if the work can­not be done safely.

Un­der the Health & Safety at Work Act, you do not have any duty to some­one un­law­fully in your home, such as a bur­glar, but the Crimes Act will still ap­ply so you can­not set a man trap or de­lib­er­ately in­jure the bur­glar (ex­cept in self-de­fence).

A lot of ac­ci­dents do oc­cur in the home, so which­ever Act ap­plies, it pays to be safety con­scious to avoid in­jur­ing any­one in your home.

‘‘Work­ers do­ing work at a do­mes­tic res­i­dence are still cov­ered by the Health & Safety at Work Act.’’

If you have a le­gal in­quiry you would like dis­cussed in this col­umn please email Alan on aknowsley@rain­ey­

Col­umn courtesy of Rainey Collins Lawyers phone 0800 733 484 or rain­ey­

The new Health & Safety at Work Act could ap­ply to ac­ci­dents at home.

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