New Zealand: New health and safety regime from 4 April 2016

Brief Counsel
Last Updated: 1 September 2015
Article by Pheroze Jagose, Marie Wisker, Geoff Carter and Garth Gallaway

Most Read Contributor in New Zealand, September 2016

The Health and Safety at Work Act has now been passed by Parliament and will come into effect on 4 April next year – five and a half years since the Pike River Mine disaster which precipitated the reform.

The aim is to encourage a pro-active and participative health and safety culture in our workforce, in line with the recommendations of the Health and Safety Taskforce and the Royal Commission report into Pike River.

Some changes were made to the initial Bill as it progressed through the House, which the Opposition parties consider will weaken it. But the new regime will still be a significant improvement on what we have now.

We outline the new structure.


The new Act has much bigger teeth than the existing legislation – providing more enforcement options and tougher penalties.

Infringement notices with 'on the spot' fines will be available for:

  • minor breaches that warrant more than a warning but less than a prosecution, and
  • actions or omissions that involve straightforward issues of fact, and do not include qualifying phrases (such as "so far as is easily practicable" or "reasonable steps").

The Act establishes a three tier approach for offences:

Category 1 - reckless conduct; fines up to $600,000 for a director and/or five years in jail

Category 2 - exposing a person to serious harm; up to $300,000

Category 3 – breach of duty; up to $100,000.

The officer

The definition of officer has been fine-tuned through the legislative process and is now designed to capture directors and very senior managers – which, in all but the largest firms, is likely to be just the Chief Executive.

Officers have a positive duty of due diligence which requires them to "take all reasonable steps" to ensure that the PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking – this will generally be the company or the employing organisation), is fulfilling the organisation's obligations under the law.

For directors, the duties will be similar to the discipline they have traditionally applied to managing financial risk and will include:

  • maintaining an up-to-date knowledge of workplace health and safety matters
  • understanding the nature of the operations of the business and any associated risks and hazards, and
  • ensuring and verifying that the PCBU has access to, and uses, the resources, information and processes needed to eliminate or – if elimination is not possible – to minimise safety risks.

The Act does not move liability from the company to its officers as the main duty of care will sit with the PCBU.

Currently a director or officer can be held liable for a fine of up to $500,000 and imprisonment for up to two years if they knowingly "directed, authorised, assented to, acquiesced in, or participated in, the failure" to take all practicable steps.

Less serious offences, where the director does not intend to create the offence and had no knowledge of it, are presently limited to penalties of $250,000.

It has been rare for a director to be charged under the current Act, and those that have been were directors of very small businesses.

Officers will be subject to the same penalties as PCBUs under the new Act.

Responsibilities of the PCBU

The PCBU is required to ensure the health and safety of those who work for the PCBU and those who could be put at risk by that work. Where there are multiple PCBUs on a site and an overlap of duties, PCBUs must discharge their overlapping responsibilities to the extent they have the ability to control the matter. They must also consult, cooperate and coordinate their activities with the other PCBUs.

In high risk industries, the PCBU will have to establish a formal risk management process. This will require:

  • identifying all reasonably foreseeable hazards
  • involving workers and their representatives in developing the risk mitigation strategy
  • eliminating or minimising the risk so far as is reasonably practicable by:
    • substituting the hazard with something less hazardous and/or
    • isolating the hazard from any person who could be exposed to it and/or
    • implementing engineering controls, and if a risk still remains
  • putting in place administrative controls (work methods or procedures) or providing personal protective equipment, and
  • regularly reviewing the control measures to ensure they remain effective over time.

Workforce participation

All PCBUs have the right to appoint H&S representatives and/or H&S committees should they wish. PCBUs employing more than 20 people, and all businesses in sectors with moderate to high risk of injury, are obliged to provide this representation if requested to do so by the workforce.

Regulations will specify, among other things:

  • the criteria for electing an H&S representative, the training to be provided, the term of office (three years) and procedures to terminate an appointment
  • the process for determining the configuration of work groups (these must be negotiated between the PCBU and workers, and must be designed to ensure that workers' H&S interests are represented effectively and efficiently, and that H&S representatives are readily accessible to each worker in the group), and
  • the composition and meeting requirements of H&S committees (they must be at least half composed of workers not nominated by the PCBU, and the committees must meet at least every three months, or at any reasonable time requested by least half of the committee members).

Smaller businesses (20 or fewer workers) in low risk industries do not have to appoint an H&S representative. PCBUs which meet the size test will be excluded from the exemption where there is:

  • a risk of a catastrophic event causing multiple deaths
  • a fatality rate greater than 25 per 100,000 workers
  • a serious injury rate in excess of 25 per 1000 workers, or
  • a likelihood of exposure to asbestos or silica.

Commencement of 4 April 2016

The new regime will come into force from 4 April 2016. From that date, duty holders will be expected to be compliant. There is no transition period. Accordingly, businesses and individual officers should be taking the time now to review their health and safety regimes to ensure that they will be best placed to meet the new regime.

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.