New health and safety act made simple for landlords and business owners

06 October 2016

If you are a business owner or a landlord, you now have responsibilities as a 'person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU) under the New Zealand Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), which came into effect on April 4 2016. There are also responsibilities for officers of PCBUs.

Different businesses will have different health and safety risks, depending on the nature of the business or undertaking. In relation to those risks, most business owners, landlords, property managers, contractors and handymen will qualify as PCBUs. PCBUs replace the duty holder categories under the old Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, and have increased obligations under the HSWA. The obligations apply anywhere where work is being carried out, such as your property, premises or a customer’s site.

Breaches of the HSWA can occur where a PCBU has not taken reasonable and practical steps to ensure that the health and safety of workers and other people is not put at risk by work on your property, premises or customer's site. A breach under the HSWA may result in Worksafe New Zealand investigating and prosecuting the PCBU and/or its officers.

AMP's Head of General Insurance, Rob Dibley, said that "it is important that anybody who thinks they may be a PCBU moves quickly to acquaint themselves with their responsibilities under the HSWA because accidents happen and the penalties for breaching the HSWA are hefty."

Penalties for breaching new health and safety rules

If a PCBU or officer is convicted of a breach of the HSWA, penalties include a fine, a reparation order to victims and or their families, and legal costs.

The Government has pledged to increase the volume of investigations and prosecutions under the HSWA. More prosecutions are expected to lead to more fines (the limits of which have increased) and reparation orders against PCBUs.

Insurance provides some cover but is not a panacea

Under the HSWA you cannot insure yourself from a fine. However, insurance can cover reparation orders and legal costs, up to the limit specified in your statutory liability policy.

"As an example, if you are a residential landlord who has insurance with AMP, there is a liability cover in your policy. However, over and above this you should consider Statutory Liability protection as a property owner and depending on your business set up, a Directors & Officers Liability. Talk to an insurance professional to get the right advice to ensure you have the best protection possible" Mr Dibley said.

What are some of the practical steps that a PCBU can take to avoid being penalised?

A PCBU can reduce the risk of being penalised by taking practical steps to eliminate or minimise the risk to the health and safety of workers and other people who occupy, work at or visit your property, premises or customer’s site.

Ensure that plant and equipment are maintained, everybody has the appropriate information, training or supervision is provided and that workers and their working conditions are properly monitored/maintained.

For landlords this may involve amongst other things monitoring your contractors' health and safety compliance and safety systems, and making sure that the building complies with the Building Act.

Continue to review and update the controls you put in place. Reducing health and safety risks should not be a one-off exercise.

"Of course, this is not your health and safety obligations in a nutshell. There's a lot more to it and we strongly recommend that you take professional advice and employ expert consultants to help you comply not just because it's required, but because it's in the best interests of your health and the health of others.”

"To ensure you have the best possible insurance solution for the new health and safety requirements, we recommend you talk to an Adviser - they've been briefed on the HSWA and will be able to offer you some good guidance," Mr Dibley said.

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