When the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety commented they were “left with a profound unease about the quality of data in New Zealand”, one of their 16 aims became improving the quality and availability of data on workplace injury.
In essence they knew, as we all do, that a lot of people end up being sick or hurt because of something at work but to date we really haven’t been able to say a lot more. Some of this stems from insufficient data as well as WorkSafe’s data management system which doesn’t allow decent “number crunching” of the wide range of information it collects.
The Health and Safety at Work Act helps address this issue by making a lot more notifiable to WorkSafe as well as being a lot more specific.
The Act introduces new terms so this guide might help. Remember these all apply in relation to a workplace and not your home. It should also be noted that this is the list for the moment but the Act allows WorkSafe to add or remove items on this list by regulation.
A key thing to remember these definitions are two part statements and must be read like that; so for example:
Part 1: An incident poses a serious risk to a person
Part 2: Related to something falling from height
This is notifiable however if something fell from height but didn’t pose a risk of serious harm it isn’t notifiable.
An individual who fails to notify WorkSafe of a notifiable event is liable to a fine up to $10,000 but a company (PCBU) is liable for a fine up to $50,000.There has been much confusion over the years about how long you have to report accidents and events. The requirements now are simple and straightforward remember that the term notifiable event includes both injury & illness and a notifiable incident.
Traditionally, the most common reason for notifying an injury would be ‘temporary severe loss of bodily function’ however with the new focus on accumulating data about things that are going wrong there’s a lot more to report.
WorkSafe today simply do not have the resources allocated to attend every notifiable event or accident scene as they once did. It is likely therefore that many notifications will generate ’no further action’. Alternatively for more serious events (particularly involving serious injury) they may offer you the option of completing a Duty Holder Review. This process is described by WorkSafe as your opportunity to undertake an effective investigation and look for ways to improve your Health and Safety System. Those cynically minded could argue that this is an example of business being asked to do work which previously was completed by a government department. WorkSafe do state that this option is voluntary but certainly discourage you from saying no. The comment on their website states that “this non-involvement will be noted on your file and it will be taken into account when making decisions regarding future workplace assessment visits“. Despite this, the Duty Holder Review is a useful tool and does provide a way of undertaking Root Cause Analysis.
Of course, there still will be a small percentage of cases where the Inspector is going to come directly to the site of the event. Although WorkSafe quite correctly state that very few visits by an Inspector lead to prosecutions, in this case I would suggest that your chances are high.
Finally how to get this right:
Decide who in your organisation needs to understand this information and give them some training and find a way of providing ready reference to this document
Have processes in place to quickly, following an event, make an informed decision as to whether it is or isn’t notifiable
If you aren’t sure get expert advice
If you have questions or require further advice contact us at www.avidplus.co.nz