Health & Safety Reps
The Health and Safety in Employment Act came into force on May 5 2003 and applies to every workplace, employee and employer.
The Act is based on the principles of partnership and consultation:
- health and safety is everyone's responsibility
- employees are encouraged to participate in decisions on health and safety
- elected and trained health and safety representatives are key to a safe workplace
- unions have the right to represent members on health and safety issues.
The Health and Safety in Employment Act now reflects international experience showing the best results come from employers and union representatives working together, in good faith, to make the workplace safe and healthy. New Zealand has a poor health and safety record. Every year thousands of people are physically or mentally damaged at work, some fatally. The Health and Safety in Employment Act now says everyone has a part to play in identifying and removing workplace hazards.
Hazards of work
Hazards are not limited to building sites or dangerous chemicals.
A hazard is anything that could cause physical or mental harm. Hazards can include:
- Unmanageable workloads
- Angry, unpredictable members of the public
- Exposure to infection
- Work stations not ergonomically correct
- Working alone
- Inadequate training
- Poorly designed office space
- Workplace bullying
- Poor lighting or ventilation inadequate equipment.
How the law can work
The Health and Safety in Employment Act recognises that every workplace is different so there is no single solution that can be applied across the board. But every workplace needs a health and safety system. Employees, union representatives and employers are required to work together to find the best systems for a safe and healthy workplace.
At the heart of the Health and Safety Act is the need for:
- A genuine partnership between employees, unions and employers on health and safety
- Trained health and safety representatives, elected by their colleagues.