Most Read Contributor in New Zealand, September 2016
To promote a better workplace health and safety culture in New
Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
(MBIE) and the Institute of Directors have produced a set
of good governance guidelines.
This fulfils a recommendation from the Pike River Royal
Commission and from the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health
and Safety. The Government is aiming to deliver its response to the
rest of the Taskforce's recommendations by the end of July.
Directors should equip themselves with a copy of the governance
guideline, which is available
here. It is targeted at, but not restricted to, organisations
with 20 or more employees.
A key message is on the importance of boards ensuring that they
can exert "informed" leadership:
"Directors need to be aware of the organisation's
hazards and risks. They should have an understanding of hazard
control methods and systems so that they can identify whether their
organisation's systems are of the required standard. They
should understand how to measure health and safety performance so
they can understand whether systems are being implemented
This requirement to be informed includes staying up-to-date with
Boards are also persuaded to develop a specific charter which
defines their role in leading health and safety within the
organisation and the role of individual directors. It says that a
board may consider delegating a lead role to a special committee or
to an individual board member with particular expertise. It may
also seek specialist external advice as necessary. However, while
tasks can be delegated, directorial responsibility cannot.
Boards should use targets to lift the organisation's
performance. Such targets should be measurable, challenging but
realistic and should contain a mix of lag and lead indicators.
The guidelines include a useful list of diagnostic questions to
assist boards to determine whether they are meeting their
responsibilities and accountabilities effectively. They also
provide a number of case studies which help illuminate the issues
Status of the guidelines
The guidelines are voluntary but, as Labour Minister Simon
Bridges pointed out on Morning Report this week, the courts will
look to them as a guide to what good corporate health and safety
practice looks like.
In relation to the Taskforce recommendations to increase
criminal liability, he said that he was "seriously
considering" creating a new offence of corporate manslaughter
but indicated that he is much less persuaded of the need to make
individual directors liable for manslaughter charges for workplace
health and safety breaches.
He queried how effective such provisions had been in the UK and
Australia, saying that there had been no successful prosecutions in
either country because the lines of accountability were too diffuse
to meet the necessary standard of proof for a criminal
Chapman Tripp's commentary on the Taskforce's report is
Our thanks to Heather McKenzie for writing this Brief
The information in this article is for informative purposes
only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Please contact
Chapman Tripp for advice tailored to your situation.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
This WHS decision clarified the interpretation of s 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).
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