Health & Safety Review Important

Jenna Riddle, Wade Pearson

The Government wants your views on new health and safety regulations – for plant, structures and working at heights

 

Does your business have employees working on scaffolds? Do you use quad bikes or forklifts? Dig trenches? How about plant and machinery – do you design, maintain or even import plant? If so, there’s an important consultation open at the moment, and the Government needs your thoughts and experiences.

What’s going on?

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is currently consulting on health and safety regulations that will affect a large number of sectors and businesses. Regulations deal with the little details – things like when a safety guard is required for a machine or what the minimum height for scaffolding is. There are existing regulations, but MBIE wants to update and improve them, and MBIE needs your input.

The consultation document is available here: https://www.mbie.govt.nz/about/news/were-consulting-on-better-regulations-for-working-with-plant-structures-working-at-heights-and-excavations. It’s a massive document, with 151 pages and 152 questions to consider. But you only need to respond to the sections that are most relevant to your business. Responding to the consultation will help MBIE create sensible regulations to keep people safe, without imposing unnecessary costs on businesses like yours.

The consultation is open until 4 October 2019. If you don’t provide your feedback now, regulations that affect the way you do business could be put into law from 2021.

Who should care?

The scope of this consultation is very wide. The new regulations will affect many businesses across different sectors, including farming, forestry, construction, manufacturing, utilities, transport, and fisheries. Local authorities (e.g. councils) may also be interested.

You may want to respond if, in your work, you interact with any of the following:

You will also likely be interested if you, or any of your employees or contractors, work at heights (even on single storey houses) or underground (e.g. excavations and trenching).

Office workers aren’t necessarily immune. You might, for example, be an engineering firm that designs or builds plant or machinery. If so, MBIE is looking at beefing up the duties on you and other “upstream” businesses.

Why is this happening?

MBIE believes current regulations are out of date, inconsistent, and insufficient. In their enforcement roles, WorkSafe and MBIE see a large number of issues that NZ workplaces face – guarding mechanisms that don’t work; shoddy and dangerous second-hand plant; unnecessarily high costs for businesses; and rollover risk for vehicles (to name a few).

MBIE wants to know how best to address these issues, so it has tentatively proposed a number of different methods. Most of the methods are “administrative controls”: processes and paperwork, such as applying a prescriptive risk management process; creating guidance; or imposing express duties. Some proposals are more practical – like not allowing passengers on mobile plant unless the plant was designed for that purpose; or requiring high-risk plant to be registered. A few of the questions are narrower and may be easier to answer: e.g. should full scaffolding be required at two or three metres?

We frequently see that administrative (or “above the line”) controls are insufficient. They rely on human behaviour and often create more work, or even cause resistance to safety culture. In contrast, we find engineering controls (i.e. physical solutions) are almost always a better safeguard. This is a great opportunity to have your say on whether the proposed regulations are unnecessary red-tape, or sensible safeguards.

What happens next?

Consulting with the public is an important part of making new law, and MBIE needs your help. You work in your business and you know how things can be improved. Talk within your business and talk to your advisors, so you can make the best submission possible. Even answering as few as five of the 152 questions could help improve NZ’s health and safety laws.

Jenna Riddle is a partner in the Disputes Resolution team, at law firm Gallaway Cook Allan.

This article originally appeared in the Otago Daily Times on 19 August 2019. If you’d like to discuss making a submission, then please get in contact with Jenna Riddle, Emma Burke, Wade Pearson or your regular GCA contact.