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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Minister on participation

Minister on participation
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Publication Date:
New Zealand

The select committee considering the Health and Safety Reform Bill is looking at clarifying the definition of PCBU and 'officer' and how the law will cover volunteers, on top of the amendments to employee participation already signalled in late May when the reporting date was pushed back to 24 July.

Michael Woodhouse, Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety, told a meeting of the Business Leaders' Health and Safety Forum in Auckland late last month that the Transport and Industrial Relations committee had made "excellent" progress.

"I make no apologies to take a few more weeks to ensure we have the balance we are looking for."

The due diligence duty in the Bill was significant, he said, because in the existing legislation it could appear that a non-intervention - not knowing what was going on - was a defence. The term PCBU, he said, just referred to organisations working together, but the committee was looking at ways to clarify that, along with the new term 'officer'. The committee also had some concerns about coverage of volunteers.

Regarding employee participation - apparently the bone of contention among some members of his own caucus which provoked the delay - Woodhouse acknowledged it was a key recommendation of the Independent Taskforce.

"It's really important that we enable all workers to participate in health and safety. In smaller organisations there has been a concern that that could be burdensome. Therefore it's a balance of risk and effort. I am confident we will land that in the right place."

The minister told Forum members that the previous day he had attended the launch in Parliament of the Forest Industry Safety Council. A woman approached him - the mother of one of the ten forestry workers killed in 2013 - and said to him: just remember that behind all of what you are doing is people. "That brings it into focus," he said.

The next day, the second day of the Safeguard conference, the Minister reiterated to delegates many of the same messages. The fact that the select committee had heard many of the submissions on the Bill twice, he said, "is a reflection of the commitment Parliament is making to get it right".

"For me, it's much better to get it right than to get it early."

On the thorny issue of worker participation: "My goal is to make sure that there's very clear understanding about expectations of health and safety in workplaces, and that workers will participate commensurate with the size of the organisation and the risks faced."

People Mentioned:
Michael Woodhouse
Organisations Mentioned:
Transport and Industrial Relations committee
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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