Workplace health & safety. Could you be personally responsible?
Directors and management now personally liable for health and safety.
Recently New Zealand’s workplace health and safety underwent its most significant reforms for 20 years. This work saw the establishment of WorkSafe New Zealand and the introduction of the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which came into effect on 4 April 2016. WorkSafe has a pretty big goal – to deliver a 25% reduction in serious injuries and workplace deaths by 2020.
The new legislation now firmly makes health and safety a core function of every business. And the Act has significant implications for directors and officers of all businesses and companies operating in New Zealand. They’re now personally liable for their health and safety actions, putting their personal assets at much greater risk than before.
There’s some new terminology to be aware of too. A ‘PCBU’ is a person conducting a business or undertaking, for example a company, employer, committee, sole trader – everyone who carries out work has a duty of care for health and safety. An ‘Officer’ is a person who holds a senior leadership position with the ability to significantly influence the PCBU’s management. Each officer has an individual due diligence duty and is personally responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act. A ‘Workplace’ is wherever business is conducted in New Zealand, including whilst out in a vehicle or working from home.
New fines under the Act range from $100k for a category 3 ‘failure to comply’ violation by a PCBU or Officer, up to $600k plus 5 years jail or both, for a category 1 ‘reckless conduct’ violation. For a corporation, fines range from $500k (category 3) to $3M (category 1). In addition to these fines, there are other punitive orders that the Courts can make.
You CAN protect yourself from some risk.
Though fines and penalties under the new Act remain uninsurable. You can still consider cover for some liability including – Defence Costs and Reparations, Officer’s Personal Defence Costs, and Company Reimbursements.
We’re here to help. We can…
- Advise you on what the Act means for you and your business
- Give you some straightforward, practical steps to ensure good governance around workplace health and safety
- Introduce you to other specialists in our business network that can help with health and safety
- Recommend an insurance package that gives you extra cover and the confidence that you’ve taken steps to protect yourself against significant personal loss.