The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 has been in force for well over a year now. It is clear many businesses are still struggling to fully understand and comply with their new legal obligations. This regular column will help keep you better informed about health and safety compliance, in addition to our great content in ComplyWith.

First sentencing under the HSW Act reinforces seriousness of new penalties and the need to proactively manage safety risks

On 22 August 2017, Budget Plastics Ltd was sentenced to pay a fine of $100,000 and reparation of $37,000 after a worker’s hand was dragged into an unguarded machine and he was left with only his thumb and half a forefinger on one hand.

WorkSafe reports that under the old Health and Safety in Employment Act fines for machine guarding cases were $30,000 to $40,000 (on average). In this case, the Judge indicated that the fine should be about $275,000, but reduced it to $100,000 based on the company’s ability to pay.

In this case, Budget Plastics identified a risk with the guarding 6 weeks before the incident, but failed to act appropriately by either fixing it or isolating the machine.

The lesson here is the importance of proactively managing safety risks straight away.

Hazardous substances – big changes on 1 December 2017

On 1 December 2017, the new Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017 come into effect. They will bring the management of hazardous substances in workplaces under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (currently it is under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996).

The new regulations are huge, and there is also a range of new safe work instruments and Environmental Protection Agency notices that have legal effect too. We will prepare an overview of the changes shortly, and send this out to all clients who we know have hazardous substances. We will also let you know when the new legal compliance content is ready (suffice to say this will be before 1 December 2017).

The due diligence duty for officers – who understands this?

We are becoming increasingly concerned at the lack of understanding of the due diligence duty by people who are considered ‘officers’ under the HSW Act. This is not helped by some of the guidance being offered, which in some instances muddies the waters more than providing clarity.

We will shortly write a guidance paper on the due diligence duty for officers. However, in the meantime if you would like us to come and give your board or senior leadership team a short presentation on the duty, please do not hesitate to ask.

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