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H & S Staff Representatives and Committees

Published 10 Feb 2016

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and will come into force on 4 April 2016.

The Act imposes a duty on employers to engage with employees on an ongoing basis on matters concerning health and safety such as: identifying hazards and assessing risks, eliminating/minimising hazards and risks, considering the adequacy of facilities, or any proposed changes to systems and procedures.

For many workplaces this consultation will be facilitated through health and safety representatives and committees.  Where a work place has more than 20 employees or is classified as high-risk and on request by one or more employee, an employer must initiate the election of a health and safety representative.  One individual may represent all employees, or the workplace can be divided into separate workgroups each with an individual representative.  A health and safety committee must also be established on request of the representative or five or more employees.

The confinement to ­high-risk sectors is aimed at simplifying compliance in businesses where the nature of the business or the number of employees makes it difficult to justify the cost of enforcing more formal workplace procedures.  Although the classification of ­high-risk industries was initially heavily scrutinised by the media and caused confusion amongst employers, regulations have now been drafted which more clearly set out the captured sectors. These are:
  • Aquaculture (excluding onshore aquaculture);
  • Forestry and logging (excluding gathering kauri gum, native orchids, pine cones, resin or mushrooms);
  • Fishing, hunting and trapping (excluding turtle, buffalo, crocodile, dingo, kangaroo and snake);
  • Coal or other mineral mining or quarry operations;
  • Food product manufacturing (excluding bakery products)
  • Water supply, sewage and drainage services;
  • Waste collection, treatment, and disposal services;
  • Building construction;
  • Heaving and civil engineering construction;
  • Construction services (excluding installation of curtains or fly wire screens); and
  • Any businesses relating to:
    • Adventure activities;
    • Major hazard facilities;
    • Mining operations; or
    • Petroleum exploration.
The above sectors are classified as high-risk due to their persistently high fatality and serious injury records.  Notably, farming (of worms or otherwise) is not included.

The functions of the representatives and committees include: investigating complaints of employees, inquiring into any apparent risks, monitoring measures taken by the employer, inspecting workplaces, making recommendations, promoting the interests of employees, and representing any individual worker in relation to any health and safety issue.

Employers have a duty towards representatives in: ensuring they are consulted with on any relevant matter, allowing them as much time and information as necessary to perform their functions, and, adopting any reasonable recommendation made by the representative.  Employers must also allow representatives to attend initial (as prescribed by NZQA) and ongoing training.  This is paid leave, and employers must also pay for any training fees and reasonable expenses incurred e.g. travel/accommodation.  The maximum total number of days’ paid leave an employee is allowed in a year is based on the number of employees working for the business:
  • 1-5 employees = 2 days
  • 6-50 employees = 6 days
  • 51-280 employees = 1 day for every 8 employees
  • 281+ employees = 35 days plus 5 days for every 100 employees.
Whether or not your workplace is high-risk the obligations under the Act, and penalties for breaching those obligations, will increase for all employers across a broad spectrum of issues.  As the new legislation is finalised we will continue to update you on these changes and how your business may be affected.  Where your workplace requires changes our Health and Safety section of the Employers Toolbox will be able to guide you through the new procedures and ensure their successful implementation in your workplace.