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Health and Safety Representatives, and Worker Participation

Health and Safety Representatives, and Worker Participation

Health and safety representatives play an important role as the link between the employees and management to help drive change in the workplace.

I cannot help but wonder, is it not a given, that if one talks with, communicates with, and listens to their employees that action and change can happen. This is especially relevant in a small business where open communication interactions are taking on a constant basis.

It appears that from the recent announcement by the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Hon Michael Wood that does not happen. Changes are being introduced to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 for the tightening up and increased inclusion of more health and safety representatives for workers.

Here’s the link to the article – “Increased Health and Safety Representation for Workers” – read this article here.

I can’t help but wonder if this directive is re-inventing the wheel when there is so much information about the health and safety representation in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. So why is this necessary?

  1. Is it because that the reduction of the annual NZ workplace fatalities and serious injuries have made little progress over the past 30years?
  2. Is it because the union movement is pushing this change?
  3. The legislation is too complex?
  4. Is this just another way to beat business up and impose more pressure on them?
  5. Or, is it because so many businesses are too busy just surviving, and don’t know where to find the information?

It’s fine to introduce new legislation, but who is going to police it and enforce it? As recently identified, WorkSafe NZ is understaffed and funded, so how will this be effective and make a difference?

It is an indictment on New Zealand business when legislation like this has to be introduced. Same with telling people to train their employees.

An interesting requirement that already exists in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 legislation, which I believe is not well known, is as follows,

“If a health and safety representative makes a recommendation regarding work health and safety, the PCBU must, within a reasonable time,—

(a) adopt the recommendation; or
(b) provide a written statement to the health and safety representative setting out the reasons for not adopting the recommendation.” Find link here.

Note, that only involves the health and safety representatives, not employees. If one was to review different employment agreements, there usually are a couple of clauses relating to health and safety involvement that usually state:

  • the employee will comply with the company’s health and safety policies and procedures etc., and
  • the employee will comply with the 2015 Health and Safety at Work Act.

Considering that an employment agreement is a legally binding document, both parties have a responsibility to communicate with each other, especially on health and safety matters, so why have additional legislation to make this take place?

Supporting References

https://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2016/0016/latest/DLM6341402.html

https://www.worksafe.govt.nz/managing-health-and-safety/health-and-safety-committees/

If this legislation is passed,  is your business prepared?

Please contact us if you wish to discuss this further.