When the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 came into effect last year, the responsibilities of all businesses and their workers changed significantly. The new act has attracted plenty of publicity, but more than a year on, many small businesses are still confused about what the HSWA means for them.
We take a look at some common mistaken beliefs surrounding the legislation.
We’re so small that the regulations don’t apply to us
The new health and safety act applies to anyone who is operating as a business – even a sole trader working alone from home. If you qualify as a Person Conducting a Business or an Undertaking (PCBU) then you need to have a health and safety plan in place.
Our work isn’t dangerous, so we don’t need a health and safety plan
While it’s true that some industries, like forestry, construction and agriculture, have significantly more workplace accidents, serious harm can happen anywhere. Even if you’re doing something as seemingly safe as clerical work, you are still at risk of slips, trips or falls, or from overuse injuries due to incorrect posture or working habits.
All we need to do is make a note of any accidents
The HSWA’s main focus is on proactively identifying risks and either removing them or minimising them before they cause an incident. While incidents still need to be properly documented, an increased emphasis on prevention is intended to reduce New Zealand’s work-related injuries and deaths by at least 25% by 2020.
It’s the boss’s responsibility
Health and safety at work is everyone’s responsibility. If you run a business, you must do due diligence to make sure every employee understands and is meeting their obligations. It’s also up to your workers to ensure they look after their own safety and that of their colleagues, and to call out any risks that they notice. Even visitors to your business have a responsibility to make sure they don’t endanger themselves or your workers.
Health and safety is all about accidents and injuries
Not all safety risks are as tangible as a loose handrail or a puddle of water on the floor. They can include inadequate lighting, poor air quality, stress, and overcrowding. Don’t forget to look for risks in your workplace that can cause emotional and mental harm as well as physical harm, such as workplace bullying or unmanageable workloads.
For a great overview on how health and safety regulations affect your small business, check out the information available from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.