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Workplace Health and Safety - A Key Theme for 2014

One of the key themes for business this year will be the government’s reform of the laws governing workplace health and safety. This is of major relevance for owners and directors of businesses of all sizes, and may present challenges to the way small and medium business owners currently think about complying with the safety aspects of being in business.

There are two major focuses to the “Working Safer” blueprint which underlies the new legislation (due to be introduced early this year, to take effect from the end of 2014):

  • Your responsibility as an owner/director to ensure the health and safety of your work and workplace will shift from “Compliance Based” to “Performance Based”. What this means in plain English is that, instead of asking “are we ticking the boxes”, workplace operators need to be asking “are our health and safety measures actually effective”. So there will be an emphasis on measuring outcomes, rather than simply obeying guidelines;
  • Responsibility for ensuring health and safety will shift from a traditional management structure towards a more broad concept of who a “Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking” or “PCBU” actually is. The blueprint realises that the people most equipped to recognise and address health and safety issues, and control risk, are often the people actually doing the work rather than their H&S officers. This is a fundamental shift in the thinking around who holds the “duty of care” in a workplace, and will be both a challenge and a benefit to workplaces of all sizes.

Along with all of the above comes an increase in focus on the due diligence with which an owner or director must actively manage health and safety risks.

The blueprint sets ambitious targets for reducing workplace injuries and deaths, and it is critical that business owners understand and evolve to embrace the requirements of the new act.

An excellent summary is on the MBIE website. In particular see the blueprint itself.

If you need advice on the act or its implications for your business, get in touch with us at Doyles.


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