Health and Safety Responsibilities as an Employer

July 17, 2023




a pair of safety googles lying on top of a bound white booklet with the words health and safety written on it

As an employer, you have a legal duty to ensure the health and safety of your workers and anyone else who may be affected by your work activities. This duty is set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), which is the main legislation governing workplace health and safety in New Zealand.

The HSWA requires you to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable. This means doing what is reasonably able to be done in the circumstances, taking into account the likelihood and severity of harm, the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk, and the cost associated with doing so.

Employer Obligations

Some of the specific obligations you have as an employer under the HSWA include:

  • Providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risks to health and safety, as well as adequate facilities for workers.
  • Providing and maintaining safe plant, structures, equipment and systems of work.
  • Ensuring the safe use, handling, storage, and transport of plant, substances, and structures.
  • Providing adequate information, training, instruction, and supervision to workers on health and safety matters.
  • Consulting and cooperating with workers and their representatives on health and safety issues.
  • Notifying WorkSafe NZ of any notifiable events, such as serious injuries, illnesses, or incidents, that arise from your work.
  • Keeping records of work-related injuries and incidents.

Failing to comply with Health and Safety legislation

If you fail to comply with your health and safety duties, you may face enforcement action from WorkSafe NZ, such as improvement notices, prohibition notices, infringement notices, or prosecution. The penalties for breaching the HSWA can range from fines up to $3 million for a body corporate or $600,000 for an individual, to imprisonment up to 5 years for the most serious offences.

To help you meet your health and safety obligations, you should have a health and safety management system in place that covers all aspects of your work activities. This system should include policies, procedures, plans, processes, practices, and measures that are designed to prevent harm, and promote wellbeing in your workplace. You should also regularly review and update your system to ensure it remains effective and relevant.

Obtain expert advice on Health and Safety

Here, at Treadwell Gordon, we have extensive experience in advising employers on their health and safety responsibilities and representing them in enforcement matters. If you need any assistance or advice on how to comply with the HSWA or how to deal with a health and safety issue in your workplace, please contact us today. We are here to help you create a safe and healthy work environment for your workers and your business.