The following is a glossary of some of the key terms used on our website.

A – B

Term or acronym

Definition or explanation

ACOP/Approved code of practice Sets out WorkSafe’s expectations about how to comply with legal duties imposed by HSWA and regulations. Other practices can be used to achieve compliance as long as the level of health and safety is equivalent to, or higher, to that in an ACOP.
Act A law passed by Parliament. Before an Act is passed it’s called a Bill.
Business or undertaking

The usual meanings are:

  • business: an activity usually carried out with the intention of making a profit or gain
  • undertaking: an activity that is non-commercial in nature (eg certain activities of a local authority or a not-for-profit group). 

C – D

Term or acronym

Definition or explanation

Contact Centre The WorkSafe Contact Centre that during business hours can answer general questions about work health and safety issues. Call 0800 030 040.
Control measure A way of eliminating or minimising risks to health and safety. 
Designated agency A government agency (other than WorkSafe) designated to carry out health and safety functions for specific sectors. The designated agencies are Maritime New Zealand for the marine industry and the Civil Aviation Authority for the aviation industry.
Duty A legal obligation to act responsibly according to the law.
Duty holder A person who has a duty under HSWA. There are four types of duty holders – PCBUs, officers, workers and other persons at workplaces. 

E – G

Term or acronym

Definition or explanation

Eliminate To remove the sources of harm (eg equipment, substances or work processes). 
Enforceable undertaking

An agreement between WorkSafe and a duty holder following a breach (including an alleged breach) of HSWA. Once in place, it’s legally binding. Generally used as an alternative to prosecution.

For more information see our What is an Enforceable Undertaking page.

Environmental Protection Authority/EPA The government agency responsible for regulating activities that affect New Zealand's environment. Key industry areas include hazardous substances, new organisms, the Emissions Trading Scheme, Resource Management proposals and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) marine activities.
Fact sheet Provides concise information on a topic.
Good Practice Guidelines/GPG Describes current ‘good practice’ to help duty holders understand and apply their duties under HSWA.

H – K

Term or acronym

Definition or explanation

Hazard Anything that can cause harm. Under HSWA, hazard is defined as “includes a person’s behaviour where that behaviour has the potential to cause death, injury, or illness to a person (whether or not that behaviour results from physical or mental fatigue, drugs, alcohol, traumatic shock, or another temporary condition that affects a person’s behaviour)”.
Hazardous substance

Any product or chemical that has explosive, flammable, oxidising, toxic, corrosive or ecotoxic properties:

  • explosive: explodes or causes explosion.
  • flammable: ignites easily and burns rapidly.
  • oxidising: could be gaseous, solid or liquid and can cause or intensify fire and explosion.
  • toxic: can harm people if it enters the body through contact, being inhaled or ingested. The effects can range from mild to life threatening, and can be immediate or long term.
  • corrosive: can cause severe skin burns and eye damage.
  • ecotoxic: is toxic to the environment.
Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act/ HSNO Act

Provides for the approval to import or manufacture new hazardous substances and the setting of controls on substances in non-workplaces and to protect the environment.  

You can find the full text of the Act on the New Zealand Legislation website(external link)

Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA)

The key work health and safety law in New Zealand. All work and workplaces are covered by HSWA unless specifically excluded.

You can find the full text of the Act on the New Zealand Legislation website(external link)

Health and Safety Committte/HSC A committee of PCBU representatives, workers and other members that meets regularly and works co-operatively to ensure worker health and safety. 
Health and safety inspector

A person employed by WorkSafe (or Civil Aviation Authority or Maritime New Zealand) to assess health and safety compliance, and investigate work health and safety incidents.

Inspectors have a range of powers under health and safety laws, including being able to enter and inspect a workplace, to require answers to specific questions, and to seize items for use as evidence.
Health and Safety Representative/HSR A worker elected by members of their work group to represent them in health and safety matters. 
Improvement notice A notice issued by a health and safety inspector, requiring changes to be made within a certain time period to improve a risky situation.
Infringement notice A notice issued by a health and safety inspector, requiring a responsible party to pay a fine for breaching specified health and safety obligations.
Interpretive Guidelines/IG Describes how WorkSafe (as the regulator) interprets the law - may also indicate how the law will be enforced.

L – N

Term or acronym

Definition or explanation

Minimise To take steps that protect the health and safety of people by reducing the likelihood of an event occurring, reducing the level of harm to people if it does occur, or both. 
Notifiable event

When any of the following occurs as a result of work:

  • a death
  • notifiable illness or injury
  • a notifiable incident.

WorkSafe must be notified when a notifiable event occurs. See Notify WorkSafe.

Notifiable injury or illness

An illness or injury that requires the person to have immediate treatment (other than first aid). For example, a serious head injury, a serious burn, an injury or illness that requires, or would usually require, the person to be admitted to a hospital for immediate treatment or to have medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance.

See our guidance on what is a notifiable event

Notifiable incident

When someone has been immediately exposed to a serious risk to their health and safety because of an unplanned or uncontrolled work incident. For example, exposure to a leaked substance, an electric shock, or the collapse/partial collapse of a structure.

See our guidance on what is a notifiable event.

O – R


Term or acronym

Definition or explanation

Occupational health See work-related health

A person who has the ability to significantly influence the management of a PCBU. This includes, for example, company directors and chief executives.

Officers must exercise due diligence to ensure the PCBU meets its health and safety obligations.

Also see Duty holder

Operational policy Provides information on ‘how WorkSafe decides’ – gives detail to support regulatory function policies.
Other persons at the workplace

Includes workplace visitors and casual volunteers (who are not volunteer workers).

These people have their own health and safety duties to take reasonable care to keep themselves safe and to not harm others at a workplace.

Also see Duty holder

Overlapping duties When a PCBU shares duties with other PCBUs. When two or more PCBUs are working together at the same location or through a contracting chain, they must work together to fulfil their duties of care and manage risks. Where those duties overlap, the PCBUs must consult, co-operate and co-ordinate with each other to meet their health and safety responsibilities to workers and others. 
Person conducting a business or undertaking/ PCBU In most cases a PCBU will be a business entity, such as a company. However, an individual carrying out business as a sole trader or self-employed person is also a PCBU.

A PCBU does not include workers or officers of a PCBU, volunteer associations with no employees, or home occupiers that employ or engage a tradesperson to carry out residential work.

Also see Duty holder

Personal protective equipment/PPE

Anything used or worn by a person (including clothing) to minimise risks to the person’s health and safety.  
This may include – but is not limited to: 

  • respiratory protective equipment
  • protective helmets
  • protective eyewear
  • protective boots
  • protective gloves
  • hearing protection
  • high-vis clothing
  • sunhats 
  • sunscreen and lip protection
  • safety harness systems.


  • any machinery, vehicle, vessel, aircraft, equipment (including personal protective equipment), appliance, container, implement, or tool; and
  • any component of any of those things, and
  • anything fitted or connected to any of those things. 
Policy clarification Aims to ‘clear things up’ – by clarifying WorkSafe’s approach on a specific issue.
Position  Outlines how WorkSafe interprets key concepts in law. 
Provisional Improvement Notice/ PIN

A written notice issued by an HSR to a person or a PCBU asking them to address a health and safety concern in the workplace.

For more information see our page on Provisional Improvement Notices

Reasonably practicable 

What is or was reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety taking into account and weighing up relevant matters including:

  • the likelihood of the risk concerned occurring or workers being exposed to the hazard
  • the degree of harm that might result
  • what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about:
    • the hazard or risk
    • ways of eliminating or minimising the risk
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk
  • after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Control measures can only not be implemented where cost is grossly disproportionate. 

Regulatory function policy Provides information on WorkSafe’s approach to meeting its regulatory functions.
Risks Arise from people being exposed to a hazard (a source of harm). 

S – T

Term or acronym

Definition or explanation

Safe Work Instrument/ SWI

A type of subordinate instrument (sometimes called tertiary legislation) under HSWA. SWIs can be used for almost any purpose, however, they only have legal effect where specifically referred to in relevant regulations.

SWIs can be used to:

  • prescribe detailed or technical matters or standards that change relatively frequently and will often be industry-specific
  • set additional or modified workplace controls for hazardous substances approved or reassessed by the Environmental Protection Authority
  • provide an alternative means of complying with regulations
  • support the effective operation of the health and safety regulatory framework, for instance by setting exposure monitoring standards or stipulating requirements for training, competence or safety management systems.
Safety alert A short, timely response to an incident (or pattern of incidents) with a view to preventing a similar incident occurring.
Safety data sheet/SDS/material safety data sheet/MSDS/product safety data sheet/PSDS Describes the properties and uses of a substance, that is, its identity, chemical and physical properties, health hazard information, precautions for use, and safe handling information.  
Special guide  Provides information on a notable topic (eg legislative change).
SME Small-to-medium enterprise or small and medium enterprise.

Anything that is constructed, whether fixed, moveable, temporary, or permanent; includes:

  • buildings, masts, towers, frameworks, pipelines, quarries, bridges, and underground works (including shafts or tunnels)
  • any component of a structure, and
  • part of a structure. 
Technical bulletin Describes a known or identified issue relating to machinery or equipment, or provides in-depth technical information or clarification on specific topics.

U – Z

Term or acronym

Definition or explanation

Upstream PCBUs

PCBUs who design, manufacture, import or supply plant, substances or structures, or who install, construct or commission plant or structures.

‘Design’ includes the:

  • design of part of the plant, substance, or structure, and
  • redesign or modification of a design. 

A person who is acting on a voluntary basis (whether or not the person receives out-of-pocket expenses). 

Volunteer worker  A volunteer who carries out work in any capacity for a PCBU:
  • with the knowledge or consent of the PCBU, and
  • on an ongoing and regular basis, and
  • who is an integral part of the business or undertaking.

Does not include a volunteer undertaking any of the following voluntary work activities:

  • participating in a fund-raising activity
  • assisting with sports or recreation for an educational institute, sports club, or recreation club
  • assisting with activities for an educational institute outside the premises of the educational institution
  • providing care for another person in the volunteer’s home. 
Worker engagement, participation and representation

Engagement - how a PCBU involves workers in health and safety matters and decisions in the workplace. The PCBU has to engage with its workers when doing or planning anything that will affect worker’s health and safety.

Participation - ways that workers can raise health and safety concerns, suggest ways to improve health and safety, and be involved in decisions that affect work health and safety.

Representation – having one or more people representing workers on health and safety matters.

Representative - a person, such as a Health and Safety Representative, who workers can approach about health and safety issues who will in turn raise them with the PCBU on the workers’ behalf.


Any place where a worker goes or is likely to be while at work, or where work is being carried out or is customarily carried out.

Most duties under HSWA relate to the conduct of work. However some duties are linked to workplaces. 


An individual who carries out work in any capacity for a PCBU. A worker may be an employee, a contractor or sub-contractor, an employee of a contractor or sub-contractor, an employee of a labour hire company, an outworker (including a homeworker), an apprentice or a trainee, a person gaining work experience or on a work trial, or a volunteer worker.

Workers can be at any level (eg managers are workers too).

PCBU is also a worker if the PCBU is an individual who carries out work in that business or undertaking.

Also see Duty holder

WorkSafe New Zealand/ WorkSafe

The government agency that’s the key work health and safety regulator.

Other government agencies can be designated to carry out certain health and safety functions, for example, Maritime New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority.

Previous work health and safety regulators include OSH, Department of Labour, and MBIE.

Work-related health

The impact work can have on people’s health. In the past, it was known as occupational health.

For more information see our About Work-related health page.