Incoming health and safety at work reform – Plant and structures

The Government has announced changes to the regulations sitting under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (Act).  These changes aim to improve the management of health and safety risks at work involving plant, structures, heights, scaffolding and excavations.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has released a summary of the proposed new regulations.  A link to this summary can be found here.  Principals, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers alike should be aware of these incoming regulations, given the impact of these risks on construction work.

A snapshot of the proposed changes is set out below.

Overview

‘Plant’ on construction sites includes any machinery, vehicles, equipment, or tools used for construction work, such as cranes and hoists, cutting and grinding equipment, compressors, and earthmoving and excavation machinery.

The new regulations will modernise and bolster the existing regulations by introducing new requirements for:

  • specified processes for determining guarding for each plant;
  • safe installation, maintenance, cleaning and storage of plant;
  • operational controls, emergency stops, and warning devices to be safely designed;
  • specific steps to avoid unsafe use or alterations;
  • presence-sensing safeguarding systems to be monitored, and thorough record keeping of testing, inspection, maintenance and alterations; and
  • additional design and operational requirements for plant that lifts or suspends loads, and for lasers.

Further regulations will apply to high risk plant, which includes equipment or machinery such as cranes and pressure equipment.  The requirements include suppliers and operators ensuring that the designs for such plant are verified by qualified engineers and registered in a central register (operated by WorkSafe).

Upstream businesses

The new regulations aim to address plant safety throughout different stages of the supply chain, making plant entering New Zealand workplaces safer and therefore reducing harm to workers.  This is achieved by requiring designers, suppliers, importers, and manufacturers of plant (as applicable) to:

  • provide critical safety information across the supply chain;
  • manage risks and hazards identified when designing, manufacturing, supply or importing plant;
  • share any faults in second-hand plant to the person being supplied the plant;
  • have guarding and safety features to meet the requirements placed on businesses that use the plant; and
  • request or order new designs of plant to provide designers any information about reasonably foreseeable risks and hazards at the workplace where such plant or structure will be used.

Working at height

The existing working at height requirements will be updated, clarified and simplified so that they are more flexible to the circumstances and proportionate to the risk, including:

  • a requirement for businesses to apply a prescribed risk management process (as defined in Part 1, Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016) to all work at height;
  • a requirement for business to follow a hierarchy of controls for construction work; and
  • licensing and qualifications for scaffolding construction and inspections will be modernised to reflect current industry practice.

Excavation work

The new regulations will also bolster the provisions relating to excavation work by requiring:

  • compliance with a prescribed risk management process;
  • PCBUs with management or control of work sites to check for underground services to address the risk of harm and economic disruption from line strikes;
  • excavation work greater than 1.5 meters deep, existing controls for shoring, and fencing, will be retained and revised as well as requirements for notifying WorkSafe; and
  • strengthened competency for determining whether shoring is required to prevent ground collapse.

Offences

Offences and penalties corresponding with these proposed regulations will be proportionate to the potential harm, and consistent with the existing offences and penalties under the Act.

What’s next?

A draft of the new regulations is expected to be released by the Government in early 2022.  The public will then have a chance to comment on how the changes would be best implemented, with the final regulations expected to be in place by late 2022.

If you have any questions in relation to the proposed regulations, please contact one of our experts.

This article was co-authored by Sean Kim, a solicitor in our Construction team.

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