Introduction to the Health and Safety Act

The Act is about making work activities safe and healthy for everyone connected with them.

It seeks to achieve that firstly by recognising that:

  • Constructive employment relationships generate safe and healthy workplaces.
  • Those involved in the work (employers, employees etc) are usually best placed to decide on the particular measures to make their own workplace safe.
  • The only sure way to do that is by systematic management of all hazards.

These principles are supported by specific arrangements that:

  • Reinforce the primary responsibility as being that of the employer or other person responsible for the work.
  • Acknowledge that employees too have responsibilities to themselves and others.
  • In bringing those two sets of responsibilities together, require good faith cooperation between employers and employees.
  • Have the expectation that employee participation in health and safety issues will bring to bear readily available knowledge on the issues.

The Act does not set out to tell people how to make particular work situations safe and healthy.

Rather, it requires them to approach that systematically but flexibly, with the ability to draw on generalist information in Regulations, Codes of Practice, and Best Practice Guidelines, as well as from their workforce and specialist Department personnel.

The standard that they have to achieve is that of having taken all reasonably practicable steps to make work safe – what can reasonably be expected given the circumstances, state of knowledge, resources etc. They don’t have to deal with things that they couldn’t possibly have known about or control.

[Source: WorkSafe New Zealand]