How safe is your business? Lax health and safety systems carry a big risk to your staff and potentially a big bill for your business.
A couple of major changes this year affect businesses operating in New Zealand.
The Workplace Health and Safety Reform Bill is going through Parliament. It is designed to address the country's fatality and incident rate, which costs New Zealand about $3.5 billion a year. It means employers will have due diligence and directors will be responsible for understanding health and safety in their businesses' workplaces.
The change in focus addresses a key issue of accountability and liability in ensuring steps are taken to keep people safe. Under old legislation, in certain circumstances responsibility for health and safety matters could be shifted away under contract or delegated out, increasing risks for workers.
The new PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) classification replaces the "employer" and "principal" terms. The PCBU definition focuses the duty to those in the best position to control health and safety at work. This is an especially important concept for larger businesses (think construction sites) that may have a number of workers and contractors on a site. Where various PCBUs cross over, they will need to work together to meet their health and safety duties.
Another change is the Sentencing Amendment Act, which came into force at the weekend and means that if a company is taken to court after an accident, it could be required to pay substantial reparations payments to people who are injured -- up to 30 years' lost income, for example.
As New Zealand begins to pick up its productivity it's timely to look at our health and safety practices, especially where business have emerged leaner and meaner from tough times to remain competitive and are on the path to growth: hiring or collaborating for large projects.
If you are not sure about the state of your company's health and safety practices, seek expert advice. Workplace safety consultants may point out hazards you have not considered and will show you how to mitigate risks, and manage your legal obligations now and when the new rules come into force.
Some business owners struggle to see the bottom-line value of a good health and safety policy but there can be big costs associated with getting it wrong, whether reparation payments or just time lost at work.
Most importantly, getting on top of your workplace safety requirements will help protect your staff's wellbeing. I encourage businesses to do everything they can to start 2015 with a focus on safety.
Jeremy Tauri is an associate at Plus Chartered Accountants.
Phone: (09) 438 3322
Fax: 438 8455
134 Bank Street, Whangarei
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