Calm down - that's the message from former WorkSafe Chief Executive Gordon MacDonald two weeks out from the implementation of the new Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) on 4 April.
"In recent media coverage there has been ill-informed comment about the impact of this legislation which has been a mixture of over-reaction, misinformation and scare-mongering.
MacDonald says there have been clear health and safety workplace duties for over 20 years, many of which are being carried over to the new legislation. HSWA does not mean a whole new list of risks has to be managed – risk management has always been part of workplace health and safety.
The new aspects in HSWA clarify duties, and are designed to better protect workers in New Zealand's workplaces.
“That makes it all the more disappointing to hear wild claims about sports events likely to be cancelled, Principals putting houses into Trusts and bowling clubs being forced to take down coat racks.
“If a claim about the impact of the new law sounds far-fetched – then it almost certainly is” MacDonald says.
“Some people do not understand the law, are being given very dodgy advice or are being wilfully ignorant of its requirements,” MacDonald says.
MacDonald says rather than the new law focusing on petty issues, it tackles significant areas where there is a need for improvement to help keep Kiwi workers health and safe. These include:
- Everyone has a role to play from a director to a worker. HSWA recognises that businesses and their directors have more influence and control than workers.
- Companies are required to involve their workers in health and safety matters - that's making sure that the frontline, where the dangers lie, is fully represented in business decision-making
WorkSafe is providing information through the website, and through a wide variety of industry sector groups and organisations such as the Ministry of Education. The information campaign will continue to ramp up including formal guidance, online tools, case studies and fact sheets in the coming months.
“It is vital we don’t get side-tracked by doomsday scenarios that simply won’t occur under the new law. We must keep focused on what’s important.
“Between picking up a paper on Sunday morning containing these sorts of claims, and heading off to work on a Monday morning, approximately 60 New Zealanders suffer injuries or worse in the workplace. That’s what the country needs to focus on sorting out,” MacDonald said.