After the Pike River Mine explosion, when 29 men were killed, It was clear that New Zealand needed better health and safety laws.
But what we really need is good health and safety full stop.
A good health and safety system needs an effective regulator, workers able to influence health and safety in their workplace and businesses showing positive leadership.
Both the Pike River Royal Commission and the Independent Taskforce emphasized the crucial importance of strengthening New Zealand’s weak worker participation. It is backed by international evidence.
Workers electing their own health and safety representatives is of benefit to the workplace, regardless of the size of firm or the industry they work in. Everyone should be able to participate in their own health and safety at work.
In April 2016 a new health and safety law came into effect in New Zealand. The most significant changes included:
- Bigger fines for “non-compliance”
- A new definition of “officers who carry a liability” – in effect, a broader definition of who is responsible for health and safety in a given workplace.
- More explicit emphasis on managing risk in the first place
- Greater powers for health and safety representatives. However health and safety reps need to achieve a new Unit Standard in order to be authorised to use those powers under the new law.
- A shift in focus from the the relationship between an employee and their employer to a the relationship between a worker and the person conducting a business or undertaking (often abbreaviated to the PCBU).
Any worker can ask to have health and safety representative in their workplace. But workplaces with more than 20 employees or those in high risk inudstry must have reps and must have an election to choose them.
Everybody one in the workplace needs to take a more active approach to health and safety. But the part that workers and employees need to lead is health and safety reps.
For health and safety reps to be permitted to exercise their full powers under the new Health and Safety at Work Act, they need to have completed some approved training. Worksafereps has been delivering health and safety representative training since 2003, and is currently the largest provider of this training in Aotearoa.
Worksafereps can deliver health and safety training for the new Unit Standard.
They have trained people working in a wide range of industries. Their strenghts include:
- a nationwide network of professional trainers covering the length and breadth of New Zealand
- proven success achieving excellent outcomes across all levels of training
- innovated learning solutions – face to face, online and a combination of both as requested
- the ability to consolidate learning through workplace union networks and onsite support
- existing close working relationship with ACC and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, as the prime government agencies in this area
- an understanding of the importance of excellence in health and safety practice in the context of needing to build modern competitive workplaces with a commitment to workplace and workforce development.