Questions and AnswersHealth and Safety in Employment Amendment BillLabour
Wednesday, 31 October 2001
Questions and AnswersHealth and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill
Will the Act cover people working in boats on Lake Taupo or the Shotover River?
Yes. People employed or engaged to work aboard vessels that are places of work will be covered by the Act.
Will aircrew working on planes be covered when the planes are in Australia?
Sometimes. People employed or engaged under agreements covered by New Zealand law to work on board aircraft will be covered by the Act.
Will people on work experience be covered?
Yes. They would be considered volunteers, if volunteers work for the gain or reward of an employer. For example, if the workplace provides places for people on work experience, then they will be covered.
Will volunteers who help with hay making on farms be covered?
Yes, if is there is gain or reward to the employer, arising from the work of the volunteers.
Stress and fatigue
What if an employee who works two jobs and comes to work tired. Are they are hazard?
They could be. A ‘hazard” will now include a situation where because of physical or mental fatigue, a person may be a cause of harm in the workplace.
Where can we get information on stress and fatigue?
Information is available from the Occupational Health and Safety [OSH] Service and a best practice document covering stress and fatigue will be available before the amended Act comes into effect.
What should employees that are suffering from stress and fatigue do?
In the first instance employees should discuss these matters with their employer. They may also wish to discuss the situation with their health and safety representative or committee and they can also contact OSH for advice.
What is a hazard notice?
A hazard notice is a notice that tells an employer that a trained health and safety representative believes there is a hazard that needs to be addressed in the workplace. Normally an employer and a health and safety representative would be able to resolve these issues. If the method of dealing with a hazard can’t be resolved, a hazard notice is a formalised communication tool informing the employer that the issue still remains.
Who will be able to issue a hazard notice?
Hazard notices will only be able to be issued by trained health and safety representatives. Health and Safety representatives will be entitled to 2 days paid training leave per year.
What is the effect of a hazard notice?
A hazard notice tells an employer that a hazard has been identified in the workplace by a trained health and safety representative. Employers should treat hazard notices carefully as they could be considered in any further compliance assessment by OSH.
What happens if an employer disagrees with a hazard notice that is issued?
If an employer disagrees with a hazard notice that has been issued, the employer can contact an OSH Inspector who will visit the workplace and provide further information on any steps that may taken in relation to the hazard. If nothing is done about the hazard notice, the employer may be exposed to further action by OSH.
Will an employee be able to shut down a workplace factory with a hazard notice?
Hazard notices will only be issued to employers to identify hazards in the workplace. They are a communication tool and have no power to stop work.
Health and Safety Representatives
What is a Health and Safety Representative?
A health and safety representative is an employee who may be elected or appointed to represent other employees in a workplace health and safety employee participation system.
Do I need an employee participation system if all my employees are family members?
All employers must provide reasonable opportunities for employees to participate effectively in health and safety management at work. Ultimately, the system you adopt is up to you and your employees, but reasonable opportunities to participate must be provided.
I have an employee participation system for health and safety. Do I now have to start another one to comply with the Act?
No, not if it provides reasonable opportunities for employees to participate effectively in health and safety management at work.
Right to Refuse Dangerous Work
Why have the right for employees to refuse dangerous work?
The right to refuse dangerous work has always existed. The changes bought about by this Bill will simply set out a system in the Act.
If an employee believes that the work they are being asked to do is likely to cause serious harm, then they may refuse to do that work. The employee must do any other work that the employer reasonably requests, within the scope of their employment agreement.
What is an Infringement Notice and who can issue one?
An Infringement Notice is like a traffic fine. If the Health and Safety Act has been breached, and a warning has been given, then an OSH Inspector can issue an Infringement Notice. An Infringement Notice can be issued for any breach of the Act or Regulations.
How high are the fines?
There is a range of fines depending on who you are. An individual can receive fines from $100 to $800. A body corporate can receive fines from $500 to $4000.
Can I appeal? Who to?
All Infringement Notices can be appealed to a District Court.
Increased Fine Levels
Judges don't give out maximum fines now - why are you increasing the levels even more?
The new fine levels are to encourage people to treat health and safety at work as a serious matter and to encourage compliance with the Act. The increased fine levels are similar to those of other countries health and safety laws. They also reflect the fine levels of other similar types of legislation in New Zealand, such as the Resource Management Act and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.
Monopoly and Prosecutions
Will a union be able to prosecute an employer if OSH lose their monopoly on prosecutions?
Yes, but only if OSH decides not to prosecute in a particular case.
What if an employee finds out 5 years later that some chemicals at their workplace made them sick. Can OSH do anything or is too late?
Prosecutions will now be able to be taken by OSH up to 6 months after they have been notified of an offence under the Act. If an individual has only just discovered that the chemicals at a workplace made them sick, they should notify OSH as soon as possible.
What will happen to an employer’s insurance policy now that it will be illegal to insure against fines under the Act?
An employer should talk to their insurer as soon as possible. Any part of the insurance policy that gives protection from fines imposed under the Health and Safety Act will be of no effect from the date that the Act is passed into law.