New Zealand: Health and safety reforms brings increased obligations

This year the Government will introduce new legislation as part of its long term commitment to introduce major health and safety reforms. Its target is to achieve a 25% reduction in serious workplace fatalities and injuries by 2020.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 will be replaced by the Health and Safety at Work Act. An important focus of the new Act will be making it easier for both business and workers to understand their roles and responsibilities by setting out clear obligations for duty holders.

The Act will be backed up by regulations, Approved Codes of Practice, standards and guidance documents for each industry against which to benchmark compliance. A new government agency, WorkSafe New Zealand has already been established as the new health and safety regulator.

New primary duty holder and clearer statement of duty

The new Act will do away with particular categories of duty holder . In their place is the concept of a single inclusive primary duty holder, or PCBU. A PCBU is simply a "person conducting a business or undertaking."

The intention is to allocate duties to those people best placed to control health and safety risks in the workplace. The PCBU covers all relationships between those in control and those affected. This means that upstream participants in the supply chain (such as suppliers, manufacturers, designers and so on) also owe a duty of care in relation to workers under their control or influence. Practically, this means upstream PCBUs will have duties to manage and monitor the health and safety performance of those beneath them in the supply chain.

A PCBU will be required to take all reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or minimise a specific risk. What that requires will depend on the knowledge and seriousness of the risk and what can be done to avoid it. Cost will rarely be a reason for not taking a particular step, unless it is prohibitive.

New Positive due diligence obligation on "Officers"

The new Act will establish a positive duty of due diligence on those with governance roles in organisations to actively manage workplace health and safety. This duty will extend to those who make or participate in making decisions that affect the strategy and resourcing decisions in a business. Company directors, partners, General Managers, CEOs, corporate counsel, CFOs and senior advisors will all come within the definition if they are involved in such decisions. People performing those functions will have to:

  • Understand how the PCBU operates and the hazards and risks associated with those operations; and
  • Ensure the PCBU has, and implements, proper processes for complying with its duties.

Increased penalties and improved compliance tools

The Act will introduce a three-tiered penalty regime with an increase in maximum penalties.

For the most serious offending, involving reckless conduct, the penalty will be up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $3 million for a company and $600,000 for an individual.

Lower level compliance tools will also be strengthened. For example, the requirement for prior warning for infringement notices will be removed, meaning that an infringement notice can be issued on the first visit if necessary.

Enforceable undertakings from duty holders in relation to contraventions will also be introduced.

A better regulator – WorkSafe New Zealand

A major focus in the reform package is improving health and safety delivery through better regulatory leadership. Increased resources have been provided to enable WorkSafe New Zealand to develop a Workplace Health and Safety strategy and to be more actively engage with industry, particularly in high risk sectors. There is an increased focus on prevention and support for business. Employers, particularly in high risk industries, can expect that inspectors will visit them more often.

The Christchurch Rebuild will be a specific focus for WorkSafe, including an inspectorate skilled in construction to focus on enforcement and high risk activities, such as asbestos.

Earthquake Related Hazards – Workplace Buildings

New Zealand's recent earthquake history has heightened awareness of the risk of harm from buildings and associated failures in the event of earthquakes.

Under the new legislation, there will be an onus on PCBUs and their officers to ensure that they are aware of, understand and manage any risks associated with any buildings they own, lease and/or occupy.

WorkSafe New Zealand has issued information for employers and owners of workplace buildings. This information will continue to be relevant under the new Act. In short, if organisations comply with their obligations under the Building Act, WorkSafe New Zealand will not impose a higher standard in relation to the building's earthquake relisilience under health and safety legislation.

If the requirements of the Building Act are not met, and someone is seriously harmed following an earthquake, duty holders could face enforcement action under health and safety legislation.


The focus is still, as it always has been, on ensuring that people are safe when they are at work. But, there appears to now be a greater recognition of the importance of health and safety and the penalties that will flow if businesses do not get it right. Certain industries are definitely under the spotlight. For example, the forestry industry has had numerous fatalities meaning that a greater focus is likely to be placed on workplace safety there. The construction industry is another key player. Although WorkSafe New Zealand has already engaged with the the construction industry over ensuring workplace safety, the level of construction (current and expected) in Canterbury means that despite that focus, claims will flow.

Those working in other sectors cannot simply rest on their laurels. Health and Safety is also under the spotlight more generally. Given the significance of these changes and the focus on health and safety, it is likely insurers will see greater inquiry about the level of cover and, particularly, the extent to which "officers" will have cover if they are individually prosecuted under the new legislation, either in conjunction with or separate from a prosecution against the PCBU.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Scott Wilson
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.