Act now on impending new health and safety laws

By Colin Taylor

Left to right - Stuart Bent and Neil Parker of Bayleys Property Services discuss health and safety requirements on a commercial building site with Kevin Williams, director Health and Safety NZ Ltd.
Left to right - Stuart Bent and Neil Parker of Bayleys Property Services discuss health and safety requirements on a commercial building site with Kevin Williams, director Health and Safety NZ Ltd.

A significant legislative change is to come into full operation on April 4 that will place increased workplace safety responsibilities on building landlords, owners, property and body corporate managers.

Stuart Bent, general manager of Bayleys Property Services' (BPS), says the new laws embodied in New Zealand Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 are based on Australian "model" legislation.

A complementary set of prescriptive health and safety regulations will also commence on that date."This is part of a package of reforms which aims to reduce New Zealand's workplace serious injury and death toll by 25 per cent by 2020," Bent says.

"The increased responsibilities that are implicit in the legislation change are significant for property managers and building owners and will require proactivity on the part of those in the commercial and industrial property sector."

Under the new act, landlords, property and facilities management companies and body corporate managers become PCBUs - a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking - who manages or controls a workplace, or manages or controls fixtures and fittings.

A PCBU has a primary duty of care that includes the safety of all persons on site and must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that a workplace and the means of entering and exiting a workplace, and anything arising from the workplace are "without risks to the health and safety of any person".

Bent says that, as a service provider with more than $2.4 billion of commercial assets under its management, the new legislation is being "rigorously discussed and dissected" by BPS's asset and facilities management teams ahead of its introduction.

"The legislation and the new regulations it prescribes require a more sophisticated and greater level of knowledge around managing on-site workplace risks for those involved with the management of commercial buildings," he says.

"This includes building owners and those tasked with managing commercial property assets and facilities.

"Landlords who outsource the management of their buildings to BPS expect the team to be abreast of all compliance matters and to inform them - as property owners - of their obligations.

"With an extensive offshore client base and a high percentage of remote owners, we are taking this responsibility very seriously and we expect building owners to do the same."

Neil Parker, head of facilities management for BPS says it is important that a proactive stance is taken ahead of the introduction of the new legislation.

"Prudent landlords and tenants should be looking to update their health and safety policies and procedures in anticipation of the act's implementation," he says.

"The pending new legislation is not a complete reinvention of the health and safety wheel but rather an upgrade to existing legislation.

"Ensuring a commercial building is safe and compliant is nothing new, however it has been 22 years since the existing legislation was introduced so this new act is significant for our clients," Parker says.

"Building owners have to be aware of their obligations and should be putting health and safety firmly on their agendas - literally.

"For those property owners with broad and substantial portfolios of commercial property, health and safety should be top of mind at board administrative level with all discussion around this subject documented carefully."

Parker says it's important to note that both landlords and tenants will become PCBUs.

"The onus is on both parties to provide a safe workplace for all - and that includes for visiting sales representatives and volunteer workers, for example," he says.

Kevin Williams, independent consultant for Health and Safety New Zealand Ltd, says his company is actively working with building owners and property managers to keep them up to date with legislative changes and responsibilities.

"Under this new act, the PCBUs have to inform, train, instruct and supervise workers and in order to do this, hazards need to be clearly identified at the outset so that risks can be managed," says Williams.

"As part of our service offering, we have the ControlPoint contractor management system which provides online safety training and access monitoring features for workers and contractors to assist with risk management."

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