Five key concepts from the new Health & Safety Landscape

Article Published : 08.08.2016

The Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 has been labelled the biggest shake up in New Zealand’s Health & Safety landscape in 20 years, and it has introduced a number of new concepts that directors and business owners will have to understand to be able to comply with their obligations. 

These key concepts are: 


The first key concept under the new Health & Safety Legislation is the PCBU or Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking.  The PCBU holds the primary duty to ensure health and safety and is responsible not only for the health and safety of all contractors, volunteer workers and employees, but also any visitors, customers or members of the public that are within the vicinity of the work the PCBU is carrying out or that will be using the products or services provided by the PCBU.   

Reasonably Practicable 

The PCBU is required to meet various obligations, so far as is reasonably practicable.  The reasonably practicable standard essentially means that PCBU’s will be required to weigh up the risk to health and safety, both in terms of its likelihood and consequences, against the cost, time and trouble of the measures required to control that risk.  The PCBU should keep a clear record of this balancing process it carries out.  


Another key concept introduced is the Officers of a PCBU.  The Officers include directors, partners, board members, CEOs and any other person that holds a senior governance role in the organisation or that exercises significant influence over the management and decision making in the organisation.  Unlike under the previous Health & Safety laws, Officers are now required to proactively exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU complies with its duties and they face personal liability if they fail to do so.      


There are several types of volunteer under the new legislation, including:  

  1. Volunteer organisations, which are organisations with no paid employees.  A volunteer organisation is not a PCBU and is not subject to the obligations in the new legislation.  However as soon as a volunteer organisation takes on one paid employee it is deemed to have become a PCBU and to take on all of the associated obligations under the legislation.  
  2. Volunteers workers, who are volunteers that work for a PCBU regularly, on an ongoing basis and who are integral to the PCBU’s operations.  Volunteer workers have the same duties and obligations as other workers under the legislation and PCBU’s owe the same duties to volunteer workers as it does to other workers.  
  3. Casual volunteers, like the volunteers that participate in fundraising activities, assist with school sports coaches or at recreation clubs. These types of volunteers are not covered by the new legislation except to the extent that PCBU’s will owe them the same duties that they owe to customers or visitors.  

Risk is central, not injury 

A party can breach its health & safety duties even if there is no accident or injury by failing to eliminate risks to health & safety where doing so is reasonably practicable, and if not, by failing to minimise that risk as far as is reasonably practicable.    

If you would like any further information on the above concepts or compliance with your obligations under the new Health & Safety Legislation please do not hesitate to contact Gareth Abdinor on (03) 379-0712 or at

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and specific advice should be sought before relying on any aspect of it.  

Article by Gareth Abdinor

Gareth is driven to build long-term relationships with his clients and to provide them with trusted guidance and practical solutions to their legal challenges. Gareth is an employment law specialist and advises employers and employees on all aspects of the employment process, including documenting the employment relationship, disciplinary processes, terminating employment, employee restraints, health & safety and restructuring.

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