The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 is New Zealand's workplace health and safety law. It came into effect on 4 April 2016.

In 2013 the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety reported that New Zealand's work health and safety system was failing.

As a result, New Zealand's work health and safety system underwent its most significant reforms for 20 years resulting in the establishment of WorkSafe New Zealand and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA).

What HSWA sets out to do

HSWA recognises that a well-functioning health and safety system relies on participation, leadership, and accountability by government, business and workers.

HSWA sets out the principles, duties and rights in relation to workplace health and safety. 

A guiding principle of HSWA is that workers and others need to be given the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks, as is reasonable.

We can't do this alone. Everyone needs to work together on health and safety. 

What are the key changes?

HSWA shifts the focus from monitoring and recording health and safety incidents to proactively identifying and managing risks so everyone is safe and healthy.

Everyone is responsible 

HSWA ensures that everyone has a role to play and makes everyone's responsibilities clear:

  • Businesses have the primary responsibility for the health and safety of their workers and any other workers they influence or direct. They are also responsible for the health and safety of people at risk from the work of their business.
  • Officers (company directors, partners, board members, chief executives) must do due diligence to make sure the business understands and is meeting its health and safety responsibilities. 
  • Workers must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that their actions don't adversely affect the health and safety of others. They must also follow any reasonable health and safety instruction given to them by the business and cooperate with any reasonable business policy or procedure relating to health and safety in the workplace.
  • Other people who come into the workplace, such as visitors or customers, also have some health and safety duties to ensure that their actions don’t adversely affect the health and safety of others.

Example: Understanding the role of a PCBU, officer, and worker

Kitchen Construction Ltd (KCL) operates a small business which specialises in building and renovating kitchens. Simon is KCL’s sole director.

KCL employs several full-time staff and regularly contracts Jill, a self-employed electrician, to do electrical work on KCL’s projects.

  • KCL is a PCBU conducting the business of building and renovating kitchens.
  • KCL’s employees are workers of KCL so they are not PCBUs.
  • Simon is an officer of KCL so is not a PCBU.
  • Jill is a PCBU conducting her electrical business.
  • Jill is also a worker of KCL because she is engaged by KCL to complete electrical work on KCL’s projects.

If you create the risk, you manage the risk

HSWA requires work-related health and safety risks to be managed. This means taking into consideration the potential for work-related health conditions as well as the injuries that could occur.

Health conditions can include both physical and psychological acute or long-term illnesses.

Find out more in How to manage work risks

Coverage is broad

HSWA applies to nearly all work in New Zealand, however there are a few exceptions:

  • members of the Armed Forces carrying out operational activity
  • civilians working in support of Armed Forces overseas in an area of operational activity
  • any military aircraft or naval ship carrying out operational activity. 

Business and working relationships are covered

Under HSWA, all types of modern business and working relationships are covered eg, relationship between franchisors and franchisees.

Find out more in PCBUs and the primary duty of care

Focus is on work

Under HSWA, most responsibilities relate to the conduct of work and how it can affect workers and others, however there are duties that relate to the physical workplace (where a worker goes or is likely to be while at work), as well as any place where work is normally carried out eg, a vehicle, vessel, aircraft, ship, or other mobile structure. 

What are we all working towards?

Workplace health and safety is not just about compliance with every letter of the law; it’s about making sure our basic proposition about workplace health and safety is cemented in New Zealand businesses.

HSWA is part of a reform package aimed at reducing the number of serious work-related injuries and deaths by at least 25 percent by 2020.

Health and safety is about looking out for one another; it's about making sure that people go home from work healthy and safe. It’s not just good for business; it’s the right thing to do. 

What are we doing to help you?

We've developed tools to: