Proposed changes to Health and Safety Law following Pike River

June 10, 2014

in Corporate & Business

iStock_000018766927SmallFollowing the tragedy at the Pike River Mine, the Health and Safety Reform Bill has now been introduced to Parliament.  If passed, the Bill will see changes to the current legalisation, which aims at ensuring the health and safety of workers.

The proposed Act introduces the broad concept of a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) which includes a broad range of categories such as employers, principals and persons in charge of a workplace.  It will require a PCBU to ensure the health and safety of their workers and other people affected, as far as is “reasonably practicable”, which will replace the current requirement to take “all practicable steps”.   Reasonably practicable” means, “that which is, or was, at a particular time, reasonably able to be done in relation to ensuring health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters”.

The proposed Act also introduces the concept of an officer of a PCBU, which include directors of a company, partners in a partnership, people making decisions affecting the whole or a substantial part of the business of a PCBU, and people in similar positions to a director or partner.  These officers will have a positive and personal duty to undertake necessary due diligence and ensure the PCBU complies with its health and safety obligations.

The Act will also require all PCBUs to have worker participation practices, whereas at present it is only necessary where there are 30 or more employees or where it has been requested by an employee and/or union.  This is aimed at promoting worker participation in health and safety in the work place.  This requirement can be satisfied by having a health and safety representative elected, or having a health and safety committee established. If the Act is passed, this will have a significant impact as it gives a member of staff the same power as an independent inspector to require health and safety changes to be made in the workplace.

There are also proposals for much harsher penalties for breaches of the Act and will see an increase in the maximum penalty for offending by a body corporate to a fine of $3,000,000 and for an individual a fine of up to $600,000 and/or five years imprisonment.

We will keep you updated as this Bill progresses through Parliament.  If you require any advice or further information on the matters dealt with in this publication please contact the lawyer at Farry and Co who normally advises you, or alternatively contact:


Kirsten Maclean

(03) 477 8870 or (09) 379 0055


The information contained in this publication is intended as a guide only.  It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.  Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances.  While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, Farry and Co. does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. 


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