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Important Law Changes to date in 2016 01 Apr 2016

Health and Safety Law Changes

 

On 4 April 2016, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (“the Act”) comes into force.

 

The Act contains changes for all businesses, regardless of size or industry. We suggest that if you are in business, you review health and safety processes to ensure they are compliant with your responsibilities under the Act.

 

Below we summarise some of the key issues that all businesses will need to be aware of.  Please note the following is general information about the Act, it is not specific legal advice. If you have specific questions or would like advice about the new legislation, please contact us.

 

Key Responsibilities

A key term in the Act is the PCBU. A PCBU under the Act is a person conducting a business or undertaking, whether alone or with others, and whether or not for profit or gain. This definition encompasses organisations such as companies, sole traders, and partnerships. The PCBU has, among other obligations, the duty to ensure a safe workplace.

 

Another key term in the Act is that of an Officer. An “Officer” refers to someone who has control over how the PCBU operates – for example, a director of a company, or someone with significant influence, such as a chief executive.  Officers in PCBUs have an obligation to ensure the PCBU complies with their duties under the Act.

 

PCBU’s need to “ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable” the health and safety of:

 

  • Their workers while at work;
  • Workers who are influenced or directed by the PCBU while carrying out work.

 

PCBU’s will also need to “ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable”, the provision of:

 

  • A work environment that is without risks to health and safety;
  • A safe plant and structures;
  • Safe systems at work;
  • The safe use, handling and storage of plants, substances and structures;
  • The provision of adequate facilities for the welfare of workers at work;
  • The provision of instruction, information, training and supervision necessary to protect persons from health and safety
  • The monitoring of the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace for the purpose of preventing injury or illness.

 

Duty of Care

“Reasonably practicable” means what it sounds like – doing what is reasonably able to be done in relation to ensuring health and safety, taking into account the facts of the particular matter – for example the degree of risk, the degree of harm that might result from the risk, and the availability of ways to minimise the risk.

 

Proactive approach

Whereas previous Health and Safety legislation was based on reporting incidents, the new system requires a more proactive approach by PCBU’s.

 

PCBU’s will now need to have ongoing systems in place to identify and manage health and safety risks in the work place, and to ensure the workplace is safe.

 

Managing health and safety risks might involve having systems, training and processes in place to ensure the risks are mitigated or minimised.

 

More than one PCBU

The duties under the Act also apply where two or more PCBU’s are working together.

 

The Act states that if two or more  PCBU’s have a duty in relation to the same matter (for example, landlord and tenants in an Office building), those PCBU’s must so far as reasonably practicable, consult and co-operate with each other towards meeting those duties.

 

Communication with Staff

Another key change is that PCBU’s are now required to be more communicative with staff about health and safety.

 

In addition to specific matters that must be discussed with staff (for example, proposing changes that may affect the health and safety of workers, or making decisions about how to minimise or eliminate risks), PCBU’s must have ongoing ways that employees can raise concerns or suggest how health and safety could be improved.

 

Penalties

The Act has higher penalties for non-compliance. PCBU’s can be fined up to $3 million for reckless conduct, up to $1.5 million for failing to comply with a duty which exposes someone to the risk of death, serious injury or illness, and up to $500,000 for failing to comply with a duty under the Act. The fines are lower if the PCBU is an individual person.

 

Medium to Large and “High risk” businesses

There are more onerous requirements for businesses with more than 20 employees, or those with less than 20 employees in “high risk” industries.

 

High risk industries are defined in schedule 2 of the regulations as follows:

             

  • Aquaculture
  • Forestry and logging
  • Fishing, hunting, and trapping
  • Coal mining
  • Food product manufacturing
  • Water supply, sewerage, and drainage services
  • Waste collection, treatment, and disposal services
  • Building construction
  • Heavy and civil engineering construction
  • Construction services

 

If you have more than 20 employees, or are in a “high risk” industry, we suggest you seek specific advice about your obligations based on your situation.

 

Employment Standards Law Change

 

The Employment Standards Legislation Bill has passed its third reading in parliament. It will come into force on 1 April, 2016. The new law will specifically impact the following:

 

Paid Parental Leave

  • From 1 April 2016, paid parental leave will increase to 18 weeks.
  • Paid parental leave will also be extended to non-standard workers such as seasonal workers and those on casual contracts, those who have recently started a job, and people other than parents who become permanent carers, e.g. grandparents.

 

Zero Hour Contracts

  • From 1 April 2016 there will be significant changes to employment terms and conditions.
  • Where the parties have agreed to set hours, these will need to be in the contract.
  • The Bill also includes restrictions on the following employment practices:
    • Not committing to give an employee any set hours but still expecting them to be available
    • Cancelling a shift without reasonable notice or compensation
    • Placing unreasonable restrictions on having additional jobs
    • Making unreasonable reductions from an employees’ wages

 

Enforcement of Employment Standards

  • From 1 April 2016 there will be increased enforcement of employment standards through various measures, including tougher penalties for breaching the standards, streamlining of record keeping obligations, more powers for labour inspectors, and a reduced use of mediation in employment standards cases.

 

Other Law Changes to Note:

 

Food Safety

  • The Food Act 2014 took effect on 1 March 2016. This Act changes the way food safety is dealt with, switching from an approach based on premises to an approach based on risk and processes.
  • After this date new businesses will need to comply from the commencement of business, while existing businesses have different compliance dates depending on their industry.
  • If you serve or produce food (whether you run a motel, supermarket, takeaway store, or manufacture, import or transport food) we suggest you ensure you understand your obligations under the new Act and when you are expected to be compliant with them. 

 

Asbestos Removal

  • A new licencing regime will take effect on 4 April 2016 to be administered by WorkSafe.
  • If you remove more than 10m square of bonded asbestos on one job, or any amount of friable asbestos, you will require a licence.

 

ACC Levies

  • ACC levies will reduce for most employers due to the removal of the residual levy. The ACC portion of vehicle registration fees will also be reducing.
  • Not all employers will see their levies reduce. It will depend on your industry and your “levy risk group”. ACC will contact you if your levy is increasing.