News Article

latest news in employment law


Published 07 Jul 2011

Grafton Bridge, Pike River Mine, Christchurch Earthquake, Christchurch’s After-Shocks, Albany Tornado, Japan’s Tsunami, Queensland’s Hurricane & Floods, Mississippi Floods, Oklahoma Twisters, China’s Mudslides, Pakistan Floods, Gas Leaks – there’s a bit going on isn’t there?
Grafton Bridge is closed to private vehicles during week days. It cost the Managing Director of Employers Assistance Ltd $150.00 a minute for driving across and back (I had no idea of the new rules until the tickets arrived – I certainly didn’t see any signs. Mind you, when I am driving in Symonds St/Anzac Ave/Grafton Bridge - all my focus is in trying to avoid being hit by other vehicles or avoiding running into someone else and signs don’t stand out at all). There have been some 14,253 tickets issued apparently. The numbers are significant and it’s obviously a great success as a revenue stream. For Auckland Transport ($2.1 million annually) will be increased by happy visitors to the Rugby World Cup. It’s unfair of course but obtaining a change might be a tad uphill.

Given the financial state of the ACC and the fact that probably some 90% of New Zealand businesses fail to comply with OSH law, there has to be a risk of similar revenue gathering exercises at the cost of Kiwi employers. The 90% is of course a guess, but if the authorities decided to put a selection of NZ businesses under the blow torch, very few would stand close scrutiny. Used as a funding strategy it would be effective.

The Point of This

One area where businesses are weak throughout NZ is in their preparation for emergencies in their H & S programme. The Health & Safety Act 1992 charges employers with the responsibility of preparing for emergencies. If employers are to keep employees safe then they need a series of systems and procedures in place to manage all types of emergencies including flooding, tornados (in fact all weather-related hazards), bird flu, swine flu - (pandemics), earthquakes, fire, robbery and fires. If a truck carrying toxic chemicals turns over outside the place of work are your employees trained in what to do – and particularly, in what not to do?

The point here is that employers need to be able to prove in court they have taken ‘every reasonably practicable step to prevent harm in the workplace’. If emergency procedures are not in place and if staff has not been trained in them then the employer will be found to be in breach of the Act. The exposure to employers is significant and obvious.