Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 – Insurance Update for the Hospitality Industry

Be safe and healthy in the workplace. Learn how the new HSWA affects the hospitality industry.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 came into effect on 4th April 2016 replacing the Health & Safety in Employment Act 1992. You might have seen the ACC ads on TV announcing the changes and behind the high profile marketing campaign is a host of new regulations that will alter the working landscape in New Zealand for the better.

New Zealand has more than 200,000 workplace injuries each year, 6000 people suffer serious harm and 75 lose their lives doing their jobs. In addition to the personal toll the economic and social costs are estimated to be around $3.5 billion annually . These very “unhealthy” statistics simply aren’t good enough for a country of our size and there is broad support for the Government’s goal to reduce New Zealand’s workplace injury and death toll by 25% by 2020.

How will the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 help?

The new Act was designed to encourage a more pro-active and participative Health and Safety culture.  WorkSafe New Zealand and the ACC are coordinating with hospitality industry groups and other organisations to better educate both employers and employees on how to recognise risks and prevent them before accidents happens. 

Where this education fails to have the intended effect then the new laws will more severely penalise those found to have breached the Act with the onus placed on managers and company directors to proactively manage workplace Health and Safety. 

Hospitality is booming especially at a time of rapid growth for the tourism industry. It is an important sector for the New Zealand economy and is essential to our country’s long-term success as a destination for overseas visitors.  Therefore, taking better care of the people who work in the hospitality trade isn’t just the “right” thing to do it makes good business sense.

Whether it’s in cafés, restaurants, takeaway outlets, bars, taverns, clubs and hotels or food trucks accidents can easily happen in a fast-paced environment where workers must deal with physically challenging work (often in confined high risk spaces) within tight timeframes over long shifts.

The most common injuries in the hospitality industry are cuts and burns, closely followed by manual handling and slips, trips and falls.  It’s with these and other dangers in mind that the regulations have been strengthened, with the aim of the more pro-active approach to reducing harm.

However, non-compliance can now result in significantly higher damages.  Under the modified penalty structure an individual can be faced with fines up to $600,000 with terms of up to five years in jail.  While that is at the extreme end of the spectrum the Act also creates a broader enforcement tool belt granting authorities increased powers to enter workplaces and ensure compliance and a continued ability to issue improvement notices, prohibition notices, new non-disturbance notices and suspension notices.

Stay covered as a Hospitality business owner or manager

Of course, insurance requirements are always an important consideration for hospitality business owners and managers. The good news is Directors & Officers, Management Liability and Statutory Liability insurance policies will all respond to claims brought for breaches of the Act and there should be no requirement to make any amendments to the existing policies.  While the actual fines remain uninsurable as they have been for some years the insurance covers for any defence costs of a prosecution under the Act and also for any reparations that are awarded.

With the new regime already here now is a good time to check you have the right insurance policies in place and talk to your insurance broker if you’re not sure.

A Quick Summary                       

  • The aim of the Act is to encourage a pro-active and participative health and safety culture in our workforce.
  •  It increases the penalties for non-compliance and creates a new three tiered hierarchy of offences
  •  It replaces the duties owed by employers and principals with a broader duty owed by “persons conducting a business or undertaking” (PCBU)
  • It imposes a new due diligence obligation on directors and officers It imposes a new duty to take “reasonably practicable steps”
  • Changes do not directly alter how current insurance policies will respond to claims

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Nick Tremewan is a specialist hospitality insurance broker for Crombie Lockwood in Christchurch.