The Health of Health and Safety -

Since the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 Act came into effect some four months ago, there has been much written and spoken (accurately and inaccurately) about some of the new employer obligations. In particular, around the “Health” part of Health and Safety, which has not necessarily been explained before, but the new Act now expressly provides for mental health issues in an increasingly stressed-out and competitive workplace.
The Act’s definition of hazard now includes a person's behaviour, regardless of whether that behaviour results from physical or mental fatigue, drugs, alcohol, or other conditions.

PCBU’s need to consider the mental health of their workers when planning a safe workplace.  If mental health issues are a reality in the modern workplace, and the Act requires employers to account for mental health and people's behaviour when creating a safe workplace, dare we ask what might happen now?

Both the Employment Relations Authority and the Employment Court have acknowledged that an employee can suffer harm as a result of stress, fatigue, or bullying and that this can be a breach of contract by an employer who has a duty to provide a safe working environment.

Whether mental health policies/procedures in the workplace succeed will depend on;

a) employers buying into the idea that this is a health issue, these are hazards and harms that do
    need to be addressed

b) employees feeling comfortable raising mental health concerns with employers.

Organisations that ignore mental health issues will now face real risk of prosecution under the new Act as well as worse performance and productivity.

It must also be remembered  that the new Act gives a duty to workers to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and ensure that their actions don’t cause harm to themselves or others.

Plan launched to reduce health risks at work

WorkSafe New Zealand’s 10-year strategic plan to address work-related health risks in New Zealand’s workplaces was launched last week by the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Hon Michael Woodhouse. ‘Healthy Work’ outlines the approach WorkSafe will take over the coming ten years to support and enable businesses to better manage work-related health risks. The plan focuses on enabling greater leadership across the health and safety system by raising awareness of harm and risks, encouraging collaboration, minimising risks at source and influencing the education system to improve understanding of risks.

It is intended to 
reduce the number of workers harmed by work-related health and health-related safety risks; 
empower businesses to manage work-related health risks effectively and reduce exposures to
        work-related health hazards;
improve aware significantly in awareness, attitudes and behaviours associated with work-related
        health and health-related safety risks.
By 2026 expected outcomes:

A system working effectively to manage risks:
Businesses, workers, health and safety representatives (HSRs), trade associations, health and
        safety professionals and social partners working together to address work-related health risks.
PCBUs complying with all mandatory work-related health and safety requirements.
Effective engagement and participation between PCBUs, workers and representatives on work-
        related health matters.
Upstream PCBUs addressing work-related health risks.
Health professionals reporting potential work-related health conditions to aid risk management.

A regulator continuously improving… 

Education, engagement and enforcement levers being used routinely to sustain a change in how
        PCBUs identify, assess and manage work-related health risks.
Inspectors have the capability to address work-related health risks.
A broad range of effective work-related health guidance and education materials is available for
        prioritised risks.
Good understanding of how PCBUs manage work-related health risks and of the levels of exposure
        to those risks.
Work-related health is integrated into the work of all parts of our organisation.

Paddy Battersby :: Battersby HR Consulting :: :: 09 838 6338 ::

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