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Workplace Health & Safety

Workplace Health & Safety

You have the right to a safe workplace at any employment. The law says employers must do everything reasonably practicable to keep employees and everyone else in the workplace healthy and safe at work.

This section will talk about the health and safety rights you have at work.

Who’s responsible for health and safety in the workplace?

The main responsibility for health and safety in the workplace lies with the employer or whoever else is responsible for the workplace. However, employees and others doing work for the employer also have responsibilities to themselves and others.

What are my employer’s health and safety duties?

Your employer must take all practicable steps to make sure that you and other employees are safe while at work. This includes taking all practicable steps to:

  • provide and maintain a safe working environment;
  • provide and maintain facilities for the safety and health of employees at work;
  • make sure that machinery and equipment in the workplace is safe;
  • make sure that work systems don’t lead to employees being exposed to hazards in or around the workplace;
  • identify all hazards and eliminate them, or isolate them if it’s not possible to eliminate, or minimise them if it’s not possible to isolate;
  • develop procedures for dealing with emergencies.

What does taking “all practicable steps” mean for employers?

There is an obligation on the employer to “take all practicable steps” where they are aware of or should reasonably have been aware of a safety risk.

Taking “all practicable steps” means doing everything that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances, taking into account:

  • the harm that could occur;
  • the available knowledge about the harm, the likelihood of it occurring, and what can be done to eliminate or reduce the harm;
  • whether the means of doing something about the harm are available and how much this would cost.

What are my health and safety duties as an employee?

As an employee, you have a general duty to take all practicable steps to ensure your own health and safety at work and to make sure you don’t harm anyone else. For example, if you work in a dangerous environment, you must use suitable protective clothing or equipment that your employer has provided where required.

I feel unsafe at work, what do I do?

You have the right to a safe workplace. If you feel unsafe, you should first talk to your employer about your concern and request for them to eliminate or reduce the safety risk. If no action or unsatisfactory action is taken by the employer, you can complain to WorkSafe.

WorkSafe is a part of MBIE (Department of Labour) that makes sure that employers follow safety law. You can contact them on 0800 030 040 or http://www.worksafe.govt.nz/worksafe and report the unhealthy/unsafe issues and practices. You don’t have to give your name when you complain. They can send an inspector to your workplace to investigate your complaint.

What will happen to my employer if WorkSafe finds my employer to be unsafe?

Employers who break the law on health and safety can be fined from $10,000 to $50,000. If they break the law and this causes an employee to suffer serious harm, the employer can be fined up to $500,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 2 years.

My co-workers and I have complained about safety issues at work, but it is still unsafe, what can we do?

If you believe that continuing work will cause you serious harm, you can refuse to work after notifying your employer of the reasons for refusing to work.

If several of you in your workplace are really worried about health and safety issues and your employer hasn’t done anything to deal with your concerns, you might be able to go on a strike. For this to be legal, you need to have good reason to believe that there is a very serious risk to your health or safety. Even if you’re still going to work, it counts as a strike if you refuse to do certain things that are usually part of your job.

Remember, you should also contact WorkSafe to try to resolve the problem.

What does health and safety at work involve?

It’s not just about making sure you don’t trip over power cables. Your employer must identify hazards which may take place in the workplace and take all possible steps to reduce or to eliminate these hazards. These also include:

  • bullying at work;
  • using a computer safely, including having the right equipment and support;
  • working from home safely;
  • your personal well-being including work-life balance, mental health at work and excessive stress;
  • protections for clients, customers, visitors & contractors.

Your employer must take steps to identify and tackle these issues, including having relevant support people, policies, and procedures for when things might go wrong.

What happens if I’m unable to work because of a workplace accident?

If you have an injury at work, most of your medical fees will be covered by Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). Employers must pay the ACC levy to cover any employees who are hurt at work. If you’re injured due to a workplace injury, you’ll also be paid a part of your wages through ACC whilst you’re away from work.

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