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Health and Safety Changes Overview

Health and Safety law in New Zealand is undergoing an overhaul, however many of the systems that businesses have in place to manage workplace risks will continue under the new legislation. Under the current law company directors, business owners and/or employers currently must:

  • Take all practicable steps to provide a safe work environment for workers and other people in the workplace, including contractors and visitors.
  • Ensure everyone is responsible for workplace safety, including workers and provide opportunities for workers to get involved in improving health and safety conditions.
  • Ensure their business complies with all relevant laws and regulations.

But things are changing. A new law - the Health and Safety at Work Act comes into force on 4 April 2016.

In addition to the new Act, there are regulations covering:

These regulations also come into force on the 4 April 2016.

Regulations have also been developed for range of other specific activities (adventure activities, mining, petroleum exploration and extraction, asbetos and major hazard facilities) but these are unlikely to affect most retailers. The government is also consulting on regulations for work involving hazardous substances and these will come into force at a later date.

WorkSafe are in the process of preparing formal guidelines to support the Act and regulations. In the meantime, WorkSafe has produced some resources to help businesses prepare.

Retail NZ is also in the process of preparing specific advice for members which will be available shortly.

What does all this mean?

The new law introduces is a new concept of a "Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking", known as a PCBU. A PCBU will usually be a business entity, such as a company, rather than an individual person - but directors and managers will be ultimately and personally accountable for health and safety.

The Act also aims to:

  • Reinforce proportionality - what a business needs to do depends on its level of risk and what it can control.
  • Shift from hazard spotting to managing critical risks - actions that reduce workplace harm rather than trivial hazards.
  • Introduce the "reasonably practicable" concept - focusing attention on what’s reasonable for a business to do.
  • Change the focus from the physical workplace to the conduct of work - what the business actually does and so what it can control
  • Support more effective worker engagement - with mandatory requirements around employee and worker participation in health and safety decision-making in some cases.

What do I need to do now?

The new law will come into effect until 4 April 2016. The details of the changes may seem unclear to some at this stage, and we are expecting that the details will become clearer as MBIE and WorkSafe develop their guidance documents. If you are already complying with existing Health and Safety requirements, you may not need to make any major changes in order to comply with the new.

In the meantime, it is a good idea to:

  • Familiarise yourself with the key concepts of the legislation here
  • Review your health and safety practices
  • Identify health and safety risks in your business and take steps to prevent these from causing harm
  • Make health and safety part of your workplace culture.

Frequently asked questions:

Retail NZ has been advocating for health and safety regime that doesn't burden businesses with unnecessary compliance costs, and matches the level of compliance with the level of risk the workplace presents. We have made submissions on the legislation, regulations and guidelines and we will continue to push for sensible decisions that support health and safety without unnecessary bureaucracy.

A. WorkSafe will be releasing guidance on the new legislation which will be available once the regulations are finalised. This will include:

  • A comprehensive Guide to the Act, covering what everyone needs to know about general workplace health and safety
  • Factsheets on key topics including:
  • What is a PCBU and what are its duties?
  • Who is an officer and what are their duties?
  • What are the notification requirements for workplace incidents?
  • What does "reasonably practicable" mean?
  • An Approved Code of Practice (ACOP), outlining the Worker Engagement, Representation and Participation requirements in the Act.
  • An ACOP giving practical information for the Management and Removal of Asbestos.
  • A Good Practice Guide (GPG), explaining how workplace risks can be managed, and the requirements under the Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations.
  • Guidance on major hazard facilities and the changes to the hazardous substances regime.
  • Factsheets to support the ACOPs and GPGs.

More information can be found on the WorkSafe website here.

Retail NZ will begin to develop a guide for our members in early 2016 once the regulations are finalised.

When the new Health and Safety at Work Act comes into force, it will replace the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and the Machinery Act 1950. Until 4 April 2016, these Acts will remain in place.

Further information

  • General information on the changes and what they mean from MBIE
  • General information on the changes and what they mean from WorkSafe
  • MBIE has developed a FAQ which can be found here
  • Sign up for updates from WorkSafe here

Confused by Health and Safety rules?

It's essential that all retail owners, employees and customers go home safely every day - and business owners and managers are required to take all practicable steps to mitigate risk.

Feedback from members tell us that there is a lot of confusion about the various health and safety rules, and how they need to be applied inside retail businesses. Much health and safety compliance is just good old common sense, but you do need to deal with it systematically.

To help, we have launched a new Health & Safety in Retail Guide designed to help retailers manage their health and safety risks and review policies and procedures. It's FREE for Retail NZ members (or $95 plus GST for non-members).

Get your copy today by emailing or request it from our member resource library.

Contact our Advice Service for advice about complying with the existing health and safety legislation, or with any questions about the new regime on 0800 472 472 (1800 128 086 from Australia) or by email to