Health and safety

Health and safety should be part of everyday business; it simply makes good business sense. Directors need to be proactive, to understand health and safety culture and risks, be informed and ensure the company meets its obligations. It’s important to really get to know the business and understand where the risks are.

Keep up to date with the latest in Health and Safety legislative reform and the impacts for directors to ensure your organisation maintains not only compliant practices, but a highly engaged health and safety governance culture from the top down and the bottom up.

Health and safety is an essential part of running a business and it’s not just for big business. Whatever your line of work, or whatever your business structure, having a health and safety plan – and putting it into practice every day – will keep your team safe, reduce your risk, could reduce costs and show your customers they can trust you.

The Health and Safety at Work Act

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, effective from 4 April 2016, is part of the Government’s reform of New Zealand’s health and safety system.

The Act aims to create an effective health and safety culture through partnership between employers and workers, which is both top down and bottom up.

It introduces a positive due diligence duty for directors to proactively manage workplace health and safety. You must take reasonable steps to ensure that the organisation meets its health and safety obligations.

Directors are personally liable under the Act, which imposes new penalties for a breach of duty. 

All directors on the board need to understand health and safety risks and this responsibility can’t be delegated.

Who is responsible?

The Act introduces a new concept of a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU).

The primary duty of care for the health and safety of workers lies with the PBU.  Officers of the PCBU must ensure that the PCBU meets its obligations.

Officers include directors and other people who exercise significant influence over the management of the business, such as the CEO.

What does it mean for directors?

A director’s due diligence duty means being proactive - actively engaged, informed and responsive about health and safety issues and holding management to account. 

Directors need to take reasonable steps to:

  • Know about, and keep up to date on, work health and safety matters
  • Understand the nature of business operations and the associated hazards and risks
  • Ensure there are appropriate resources and processes  to eliminate or minimise those risks
  • Ensure there are appropriate processes for receiving and considering information about incidents and responding to them
  • Ensure the PCBU implements processes for complying with its duties; and
  • Verify the provision and use of resources and processes.

Safety literacy is just like financial literacy – directors need to be actively engaged to discharge their duties.

This article written by Simon Arcus, CEO of IoD, explains why company directors are paying attention to health and safety like never before in the Safeguard magazine March / April 2015: Issue 150.

Background information on the Health and Safety at Work Act

For background material produced as the Health and Safety and Work Bill made its way through parliamentary process, take a look at the following:

Guides and publications

This health and safety guide updates the 2013 guide and is designed to provide directors with advice on how they can influence health and safety performance in their organisations. It is an essential resource for directors providing information on director responsibilities, the role of directors in health and safety, diagnostic questions and actions for directors as well as case studies and a checklist.  

The guide is available in an electronic format below. If you would like to request a hardcopy of the document please email us.

Health and Safety Guide: Good Governance for Directors

Setting out director and management responsibilities the guide offers questions designed to help directors and boards determine how well they are meeting responsibilities and to identify areas for improvement.


Monitoring what matters

Monitoring what mattersMonitoring what matters is a guide produced in a partnership between the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum and WorkSafe New Zealand. The booklet is intended to add substance to conversations between CEOs, boards, executives and health and safety practitioners as you work to identify critical indicators needed to understand health and safety performance in your business. The exemplar Health and Safety dashboards included on pages 16-19 are particularly valuable for boards considering the form in which they wish to receive reports.

Director Checklist

As a director, your organisation’s health and safety risk is just as important as it’s financial performance and reputational risk and it should receive the same focus. The Director Checklist provides key questions directors can ask to provide leadership, hold management to account, and create a healthy and safe workplace culture.

Sample Terms of Reference – Board Health and Safety Committee

Your board may be considering establishing a dedicated health and safety committee to assist the board in providing leadership and policy regarding company health and safety management responsibilities.

This sample terms of reference may be a useful guide in establishing objectives and expectations for such a committee.

Health and safety leadership - a guide for small to medium business owners and company directors

This guide is for directors, owners and managers of small-to medium-sized businesses. It’s designed to give you an overview of the most important things you need to know and do about health and safety.

Useful information

The newly established health and safety regulatory body is WorkSafe New Zealand, their website contains a range of notifications, information, guidance, research, tools and resources to assist in familiarising yourself with the requirements codified in the Health and safety at Work Act. 

Featured WorkSafe resources:

The Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum brings together leaders from across New Zealand businesses with a common vision of zero harm workplaces.

Featured Business Leaders Health and Safety Forum Resources (In addition to the guide Monitoring what Matters featured above:

The MBIE Workplace Health and Safety Reform website provides useful links and information.

The Department of Labour commissioned a team of university researchers to answer the question: If businesses invest in health and safety, how does this contribute to their performance and productivity? Through a review of New Zealand and overseas literature, combined with local case studies, Massey researchers tested how well businesses understand the connection between a healthy and safe workplace and their bottom line. This report summarises the literature review, its key findings and main themes.

The Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy reported to the Governor General on 30 October 2012.