Next week, on Monday, 4 April, the long-awaited Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSW Act) comes into force.

The HSW Act places obligations on everyone in a workplace to take care of their own health and safety, and the health and safety of others. These duties apply to:

  • a person conducting a business or undertaking, which includes a self-employed individual, a partnership, and company, and an association (this person is referred to in the HSW Act as a PCBU),
  • officers of a PCBU (such as the director or CEO of a company);
  • workers (including contractors); and
  • other people at a workplace, including visitors.

To get ready for the HSW Act, you should be getting your procedures and processes in place. This is the time to adopt a proactive, rather than a passive or reactive, approach to workplace health and safety.

Some practical steps organisations can take now include:

  • reviewing and updating health and safety management systems and documents to ensure that they comply with the new legislation, particularly with regard to the new risk management duties, the new "notifiable events" regime, and increased obligations with regards to contractor management;
  • reviewing health and safety clauses in commercial contracts to ensure that they comply with the new legislation and do not inadvertently breach the new legislation, for example by attempting to contract out health and safety duties, or by attempting to provide indemnities in respect of health and safety fines;
  • reviewing worker participation systems to ensure they are appropriate for your business and comply with the new legislation and regulations, including ensuring that there is a system in place to seek regular feedback about incidents, near misses and new risks in the workplace;
  • ensuring that health and safety is on the agenda at each Board meeting, that health and safety reports are meaningful, and that the data they contain is explained so that officers who may not be involved in the day to day running of the business can make appropriate decisions about where to allocate time and resources;
  • including health and safety KPIs in employment agreements and as a factor in remuneration reviews (although the emphasis should not be on "zero" incidents, which can discourage reporting, but rather on championing the organisation's health and safety systems); and
  • reviewing the arrangements in place for engaging and monitoring contractors.

We have written a number of articles on specific aspects of the new legislation which are available on our website, including:

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.