Major changes around workplace safety are currently before parliament and are expected to be in place by mid-2016. Once these changes are implemented, health and safety in the workplace will not only affect directors and officers of a business, but also senior management, workers and contractors to a lesser degree.
Health and safety is the responsibility of all in the workplace, and you must be seen to be proactive rather than reactive or silent when it comes to preventing accidents. This responsibility is not able to be transferred, delegated or contracted out in any agreements you may have with sub-contractors or others that you may be working with on a work site.
The new duty of a ‘PCBU’ (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) is:
What can or could have been done to have prevented a workplace accident?
So what must you do?
- Keep yourself up to date regarding Health and Safety changes that are coming
- Understand the hazards and risks at your business
- Provide resources and processes to prevent workplace accidents and protect your staff, sub-contractors, and visitors to your workplace
- Respond to any incidents – how could you have changed the outcome? What could you have done differently that would have prevented this accident now that you have the benefit of hindsight?
- Review your safety systems – constant review will ensure that it is still current and relevant to your business. Businesses change, so re-look at your workplace safety practices to make sure that they have changed with your business
There are also some harsh penalties proposed for accidents in the work place, and these change in severity depending on whether it is a corporate charge, against the PCBU, or a worker. The penalties range from fines of between $50,000 and $3,000,000 and can also include terms of imprisonment of up to five years.
From an insurance point of view it is important to realise that reparation and legal defence costs are still payable under a client’s Statutory Liability policy, but fines and penalties are not. With the potential for larger fines to be issued by the Courts this is a very real risk to your business. As insurance is not the solution for these fines, management of your workplace safety is critical. Some businesses will or have contracted external resources to help, some are able to upgrade what they currently have in place, and some are able to refer to industry associations or central bodies for help in addressing new workplace safety risks. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Institute of Directors have both produced guidelines for good governance practices in business.
In the event that you have a workplace accident, you will have an obligation to notify Workplace Safety immediately. Following that we strongly encourage you to call us – we will notify your insurer and make them aware of any incident. This then gives your insurer the option to help with good legal advice to work through the process. And bear in mind that even though a fine can’t be insured against, defence costs and reparation can.
No business owner wants a workplace accident, therefore we encourage you to stop and review your current practices. It has never been so important.