New Zealand: Changes to the Health and Safety Reform Bill

Last Updated: 11 August 2015
Article by Marie Wisker, Pheroze Jagose, Geoff Carter and Garth Gallaway

Most Read Contributor in New Zealand, September 2016

The proposed amendments to the Health and Safety Reform Bill will dilute the compliance requirements on small businesses in lower risk industries, and narrow the scope of various definitions and duties.

The Government says the changes, with more to be introduced via Supplementary Order Paper (SOP), will deliver workplace safety without unnecessary red tape. Opponents say they betray the vision of the Independent Health and Safety Taskforce, and break the Government's reform promises in the wake of the Pike River disaster.

We comment in detail on the changes and the future of the Bill.

Rights and responsibilities

Definition and responsibilities of 'officers'

The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee (the Committee) has recommended a further narrowing of the definition of 'officers'. It still includes company directors, partners in partnership, and any person occupying a comparable role to a company director in any other incorporated or unincorporated body. The difference is in relation to the treatment of senior management.

Previously an 'officer' included a person who makes decisions affecting the whole or a substantial part of a PCBU's (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) business. The Committee recommends this be narrowed to a person in a position to exercise significant influence over the management of the business or undertaking (for example, a chief executive). The definition expressly excludes those who 'merely advise' or 'make recommendations' to officers.

The Government intends to clarify by SOP that the extent of the officer's duty will:

  • depend on the nature of the business or undertaking
  • take into account the position of the officer and the nature of their responsibilities, and
  • be limited to what is within the ability of the officer to influence and control when managing the risk.

The further narrowing of the definition of 'officer' is consistent with an intention only to hold those at the very top of organisations criminally responsible for breaches of duty. Opposition parties contend this watering down will mean management would not be required to lead the charge on health and safety.

But it is important to remember a key part of the duty of an officer is to ensure management is doing just that, and to hold management to account.

Multiple responsibilities

The obligation on multiple duty holders to consult and co-ordinate with each other has been confined to PCBUs only, and not to officers and workers.

Further clarity will be provided by specifying PCBUs' obligations to manage risk are limited to doing what is within their ability to control and manage. This fairly reflects that a PCBU should not be liable for a breach of duty if other PCBUs take different approaches, or where one PCBU attempts to comply and another PCBU does not.

Clarification on what is a 'workplace'

There are helpful amendments to the definition of 'workplace' in the Bill. Among these is:

  • alignment with the current position that a workplace does not remain a workplace all of the time (this recognises that work may have finished in a certain location, and so the obligations attaching to that place will also cease), and
  • an express provision that no obligations are owed by the PCBU to anyone who is on the premises unlawfully.

A number of submissions were made on both these points and the Committee has taken those into account. The confirmation that duties are not owed to trespassers is a particularly welcome clarification for those in rural, forestry, or coastal areas where access may be more difficult to control.

In response to concerns raised by the agricultural sector, the Committee has recommended a further amendment to limit the duty of PCBUs to farm buildings, their immediate vicinity, and areas where work is in fact being carried out at that time. The Government will also by SOP exclude the family home from the farm workplace.

Sensible amendments to the duty to notify incidents

A number of submitters observed the definition of 'notifiable incident' did not in fact require an 'event' to have occurred. It simply required a worker be exposed to a hazard of a certain type (e.g. a fall, or release from height of any substance).

This would have exposed those many businesses which undertake such activities as part of normal operations to significant notification obligations.

Submitters requested that 'uncontrolled' be added back into the definition (it had been in the exposure draft of the Bill). The Committee agreed and has recommended exactly that.

Rational reduction in rights and responsibilities

The Committee has recommended the Bill distinguish between volunteer workers and truly casual volunteers.

PCBUs are still required to engage with volunteer workers, now defined as those who work for a PCBU on an 'ongoing and regular' basis and whose work is integral to the business or undertaking. Exclusions are available when the volunteer worker is carrying out certain functions, such as fund-raising or assisting with sports or recreational activities.

Both casual and volunteer workers are still required to be considered by the PCBU as persons who may be affected by the business or undertaking. Volunteers, whether casual or volunteer workers, are still responsible for taking reasonable care of themselves while at work and ensuring that their actions or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons in the workplace.

Rights reduced?

The Committee is recommending small businesses (20 employees or fewer) in low-risk sectors can refuse a request by employees to elect a health and safety (H&S) representative and/or a health and safety committee.

The proposed carve-out recognises the statutory paid leave training entitlements for H&S representatives could be onerous for small business. A further driver for this change is that the presence in a small workplace of a specially delegated H&S representative may engender an attitude among the other workers that responsibility rests with the elected representative only.

This loss of representation is meaningful as H&S representatives have powers to order the cessation of unsafe work, attend investigations, raise issues with the employer, call an inspector, and enter and inspect a workplace.

However, there are a number of balancing factors, and significant rights remain:

  • workers themselves are empowered under the Bill to cease unsafe work and to refuse to carry out work until the matter has been resolved with the PCBU, and
  • a small business can only refuse a request for an H&S representative or committee if satisfied that the worker participation practices it has in place are effective (all PCBUs, whatever their size or risk factor, will have a duty under the Bill to engage with their workers on health and safety matters).

High-risk vs low-risk industries

The issue of which industries are high risk will be settled by regulation, although Workplace Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse has said that these will not be drafted until after the Bill becomes law. Prime Minister John Key has indicated that they will include construction, agriculture, forestry, and mining.

Limitation period reduced

We have previously commented the Bill proposed a comparatively long period for bringing prosecutions – up to two years after the breach first comes to WorkSafe's notice, and up to one year after the coroner releases findings indicating that an offence may have occurred.

These timeframes have now been halved – to twelve and six months respectively. Specific criteria have been introduced for any application WorkSafe might make to the District Court to extend those time periods in any particular case, and limiting any extension to no more than a further twelve months.

Private prosecutions may still be brought up to two years after the breach first came to WorkSafe's attention.

The Bill from here

The Bill is now more focused than earlier drafts, and many of these amendments sensibly assist with compliance. The Bill still represents a significant improvement on the existing regime.

There will be time for duty holders to prepare for the changes, but the key will be attending to this sooner rather than later.

Our thanks to Jenna Riddle for writing this Brief Counsel.

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.

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.

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.