HEALTH AND SAFETY : Managers at risk – How the law affects you

Changes coming soon to the Health and Safety in Employment Act are likely to have big impact on managers.
The National-led Government has adopted bill first introduced by Labour in 2008, which means that technical changes to the definition of ‘serious harm’ will mean employers have to report more injury incidents to the Department of Labour.
This is risk issue, as more reporting will also mean more chance of being investigated by the Department of Labour’s inspectors. new law will also be introduced, requiring businesses to collaborate on health and safety management when employees from multiple companies are required to work together.
Almost all directors and senior managers understand that health and safety is risk management issue in their businesses, but 2010 is time for renewed focus on this, as these law changes and international best practice improvements raise the bar for local companies.
In March, senior British politician, the Conservatives’ Lord David Young of Graffham, spoke at an international health and safety conference in Scotland about the need for health and safety laws to be simplified and to reflect common sense. This call was widely rejected by industry experts.
Common sense is not enough when you’re running complicated business. Many workplace injuries occur when employees cut corners and ignore common sense. The Department of Labour and the courts are clear that businesses must take steps to protect employees from themselves, even if this means protecting against things that should be common sense.
In process terms, New Zealand directors and managers usually seek to manage risk and ensure legal compliance by doing what the Health and Safety in Employment Act requires – identifying all risks and taking steps to eliminate, isolate or minimise those risks. This often involves combination of equipment, processes, training and supervision.
The British Institute of Directors has introduced guide for directors to help them address their health and safety responsibilities.
The guide has been important in the United Kingdom because the introduction of corporate murder and manslaughter laws in 2006 has meant that after workplace fatalities the police are now routinely leading investigations, rather than health and safety regulators. There’s nothing like being compelled to attend interviews at police station to focus the mind of senior manager or director…
New Zealand does not yet have corporate murder laws, so you may ask ‘why do I care?’ The reality is that New Zealand’s health and safety landscape is shifting, and directors and senior managers are now in the frame in way they weren’t even five years ago.
Just ask Wayne Grattan, the managing director of Icepak Coolstores. Everyone will remember the tragic coolstore fire at Tamahere in Hamilton in April 2008, because one fire fighter died and others suffered serious burns. Grattan was prosecuted personally for acquiescing in the failure by his company to comply with its health and safety obligation. He was ultimately fined $30,000.
Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson has challenged businesses to improve health and safety performance, and the Department of Labour is looking for cases where it can take enforcement action against directors and senior managers.
So, what should directors and senior managers do? The clear message from the Scotland conference is that the most important thing is building positive health and safety culture. This requires accountability, and visible support from senior management.
The challenge for 2010 and beyond is to ensure your business takes sufficient steps to manage risks and, equally importantly, that you can demonstrate compliance. After all, do you want to be the next manager or director facing personal prosecution?

Grant Nicholson is partner at Kensington Swan and heads the firm’s health and safety work group.

Visited 3 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window