Tough new health and safety regulations hit workplaces today but a Tauranga business expert says smaller business are "scrambling to get up to speed".

The Health and Safety at Work Act was created as a result of the Pike River Coal Mine tragedy in 2010, and replaces the current Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

The aim of the law was to bring about continual improvement to New Zealand's health and safety culture, so that harm caused at work was reduced.

WorkSafe New Zealand has promised the Government it will reduce fatalities and serious harm injuries by a minimum of 25 per cent by 2020.


Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said there had been a lot of publicity about the new health and safety changes but some businesses would not be prepared.

"Word has got out there and larger businesses will, by and large, be well prepared and will have updated their health and safety policies and procedures.

"However, we know that many smaller businesses will have left things to the last minute and will be scrambling to get up to speed."

He knew that because the the chamber had been offering training on the new health and safety regime, he said.

"We have had full houses for the last two months. This is an indicator that many have left it quite late."

Mr Gregec said businesses should not panic if they had not updated their health and safety procedures as there was help and upskilling available through organisations like the chamber.

"There is a lot of hearsay and misinformation about what these changes will mean to business. Businesses will certainly need to step up and adjust their approach to health and safety risks but it is all quite do-able, and there are practical steps you can take right now to ensure your business is compliant."

Ballance Agri-Nutrients safety and health manager Bruce Taplin said the focus remained the same.

"Making sure our people all go home safe at the end of each day. Over the past few months we have been working to align our systems with the new legislation so we can continue to meet our obligations."

Mr Taplin said a key change for Ballance with respect to the new legislation was the increased complexity of reporting around what was serious harm. From today it would be known as a notifiable event.

"We've been educating our people so they can make the right decisions at the right time. We will continue to work in partnership with WorkSafe NZ to make sure any reporting meets full legal compliance."

Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan said the school had been very mindful of the changes that were happening as the school had a responsibility for the emotional and physical well-being of all of its students and teachers.

Mr Mangan said the school would be reviewing all its health and safety policies and procedures, which would become a regular focus for the Board of Trustees.

"A reasonable approach would be used to continue to offer a wide range of curricular and co-curricular activities to our students so there is no cutting back on education outside the classroom."

Nevan Lancaster, owner of Mount Cats and Yaks, said he always had to go through a vigorous health and safety process with the harbour master and council so as far as he knew, he would not be affected.

Yet Mr Lancaster said there seemed to be uncertainty about the new rules.

"Until they get their consistency and what they want to achieve in place, I don't think any business can really understand what is happening."