Health and Safety at Work Act – New Laws Proposed
General / 25 August 2018
Last month, the Health and Safety at Work (Volunteer Associations) Amendment Bill (Bill) was introduced to Parliament.
The Bill recognises the important role volunteer associations play in New Zealand and acknowledges that most volunteer associations only employ a limited number of employees usually for very specific tasks (e.g. a sports club that engages someone to run the kitchen on club day).
If passed the Bill will exclude volunteer associations who employ individuals that do not work more than 100 hours per week from the definition of a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU).
A PCBU has a primary duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (Act) to ensure the health and safety of its workers and others, so far as is reasonably practicable. Currently the Act excludes “volunteer associations” from the definition of PCBU. In summary, a volunteer association is defined as an organisation which does not have any employees and is made up of volunteers who work together for a community purpose.
As the law currently stands, when a volunteer association engages someone to carry out work, it is no longer excluded from the definition of a PCBU and inherits the same duties of non-volunteer associations under the Act. The volunteer workers would also inherit the same obligations as paid workers under the Act. Both volunteer workers and the PCBU could be prosecuted if they failed to meet their obligations under the Act.
PCBUs must ensure so far as is reasonable practicable that workers have:
A safe work environment free from risks to health and safety;
Safe equipment, structures and systems of work;
Safe storage, handling and use of plant, substances and structures;
Adequate and accessible welfare facilities;
Information, training, instruction or supervision to carry out work safely; and
Their health monitored.
What you need to know
If enacted into law, it would mean that more volunteer associations and volunteers will not be covered by the Act. Despite this, a volunteer association may still have an implied duty to take reasonable steps to maintain a safe workplace. An individual employed by the volunteer association could still potentially bring a claim on this basis against their employer.
We will keep you updated on the Bill’s progress through Parliament.
Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law and health and safety topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.