2020 Litigation Forecast - Health & Safety: Compliant not complacent

Health and Safety continues to be the number one item on Board agendas.

With the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 heading into its fifth year, WorkSafe is focusing on sustainable business models from a health and safety perspective and prioritising the care of workers, rather than compliance alone.

WorkSafe priorities

We expect WorkSafe’s key priorities to include:

  • Minimising workplace health exposures: 750 to 1,000 people are dying each year because of workplace health exposures, such as asbestosis, silicosis, chemical use, and sun-related cancers. Asbestos-related prosecutions are underway, and we predict a greater focus on the prevention of health-exposure harm and increased penalties for businesses failing in this area.
  • Strategic litigation: We anticipate that WorkSafe will look closely at bringing prosecutions that will develop or clarify the law in a particular area. These include:
    • upstream ‘PCBU’ duties;
    • officer duties; and
    • discrimination of workers who raise legitimate health and safety issues.
  • Maruiti 2025: This strategy is aimed at providing a focus for Māori health and safety needs. This is a result of data illustrating a disproportionate level of harm on Māori in the workplace. WorkSafe’s aim is to reduce the level of harm to Māori workers to at least the same level as non-Māori by 2025.

Industrial manslaughter

Industrial manslaughter has been an offence in the United Kingdom since 2008 and is an offence in some states in Australia. We expect the discussion on whether to introduce industrial manslaughter in New Zealand to remain live. However, given New Zealand’s business community is predominantly made up of small to medium size enterprises, this is not likely to be on the agenda for the Government in an election year.

Read the full Litigation Forecast

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