Module One, Part A - Health and safety for the time-challenged - a high level introductory overview

Health and Safety for the time-challenged

This section of the module is a high level overview on the following topics:

About the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) is our key document setting out health and safety law. HSWA introduced a new focus on managing risk.
  • WorkSafe New Zealand is the workplace health and safety regulator
  • Other agencies can be designated functions for certain sectors, such as:
    • Civil Aviation Authority
    • Maritime Safety Authority
  • A range of documents work together to support good health and safety practices including:
    • HSWA
    • regulations
    • safe work instruments
    • approved codes of practice
    • WorkSafe information and guidance

Purpose and principles

  • The main purpose of the HSWA is to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces by protecting workers and other persons against harm to their health and safety.
  • In doing so, regard must be had to the principle that workers and other persons should be given the highest level of protection against harm to their health and safety and welfare from hazards and risks arising from work as is reasonably practicable.

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)

  • PCBU is a new concept introduced under HSWA
  • A PCBU is a “person conducting a business or undertaking” and it is the principal duty holder
  • In most cases the PCBU will be an organisation (e.g. a business entity such as a company).
  • Councils are PCBUs.
  • A PCBU in carrying out their work must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of
    • Its workers
    • Any other workers it influences or directs
    • Other people who could be put at risk by its work
  • This is called the “primary duty of care”

The Primary Duty of Care

  • The primary duty of care rests with a PCBU. It is a broad, over-arching duty to workers who work for the PCBU, workers whose activities are influenced or directed by the PCBU and to ensure other persons are not put at risk from work carried out by/for the PCBU. It includes, but is not limited to, so far as is reasonably practicable:
    • Providing and maintaining:
      • A work environment that is without risk to health and safety
      • Safe plant and structures
      • Safe systems of work
      • Adequate facilities for the welfare of workers at work
      • Safe use, handling and storage of plant, substances and structures
    • The provision of information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect people from risks to health and safety arising from the work carried out
    • That the health of workers and the conditions at the workplace are monitored to prevent illness or injury to workers arising from the work carried out

Overlapping Duties

  • When two or more PCBUs have duties in relation to the same matter, this is called an overlapping duty.
  • Where there is an overlapping duty, PCBUs must consult, co-operate and co-ordinate activities to meet its health and safety responsibilities, so far as is reasonably practical.
  • A PCBU cannot contract out of its duties.

Reasonably Practicable

  • Something is reasonably “practicable’ if it is reasonably able to be done, at a particular time, to ensure health and safety including weighing up relevant matters such as:
    • likelihood of occurrence of the risk or hazard
    • degree of harm
    • what the PCBU knows or ought reasonably to know
    • availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk
    • cost (must be grossly disproportionate to the risk)
  • “Reasonably” does not mean doing everything humanly possible to manage a risk.

Managing Risks

  • Use this four-step continuous improvement cycle to manage your health and safety risks
    • Identify and assess the risks
    • Eliminate the risks and, if it is not possible to eliminate the risk, then minimise the risk
    • Monitor the control measures
    • Review for continuous improvement
  • There is a lot of guidance available from WorkSafe and other sources

Worker Engagement and Participation Duties

  • PCBUs must engage with workers who carry out work for them on health and safety matters that may directly affect them
  • PCBUs must also have practices that give their workers reasonable opportunities to participate in improving health and safety in the business or undertaking on an on-going basis
  • These duties only extend to workers who carry out work for the business or undertaking


  • Officer and the duty of due diligence is a new concept introduced by HSWA.
  • Officers need to exercise due diligence to make sure that the PCBU complies with its health and safety duties.
  • For Councils, the officers are the mayor (or chair) and councillors, and the chief executive, and some chief executives get their Tier 2 to exercise due diligence to demonstrate safety leadership.


  • Workers include employees, contractors, subcontractors, labour hire workers, apprentices and trainees, and volunteer workers.
  • Workers must take reasonable care for their own health and safety
  • Every worker must take reasonable care that his or her acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of others.
  • Workers must comply with reasonable instructions from the PCBU
  • Workers must co-operate with policies and procedure.

Other person at workplaces

  • Other persons at workplaces include
    • workplace visitors and
    • casual volunteers at workplaces.
  • Other persons at a workplace have a duty to keep themselves safe and take reasonable care that his or her acts or omissions do not adversely effect the safety of others.

Notifications and Authorisations

  • A notifiable event is when:
    • someone dies, or a notifiable incident, illness or injury occurs; and
    • the event arises from thr work of the PCBU
  • PCBUs must advise the regulator when notifiable events occur.
  • WorkSafe need to be told before certain work activities are carried out.

The role of the Regulator (WorkSafe and designated agencies)

  • The regulator has a range of tools available to enforce compliance with HSWA.
  • Enforcement tools range from improvement notices to prosecution.