In April 2016, the new Health and Safety at Work Act came into force, significantly increasing penalties for those compromising workplace safety. Courts have served more than $1.7 million in fines and reparation orders across the Waikato region alone since 2014.

Richard Wagstaff, president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, said that although it was pleasing to see, the fact people continue to break the law is not a cause for celebration. Improving workplace safety in New Zealand is like turning around an oil tanker,” Wagstaff said, “you just can’t flick a switch.”

The number of workers seriously injured or killed on the job remains unacceptably high. The best outcome from the new legislation would be to see more people complying with the law, and fatalities and accident rates dropping dramatically.

William Durning, Waikato Chambers of Commerce chief executive, said the safety of workers is at the forefront of employers’ minds. “I don’t know of one good business owner that doesn’t care about his or her staff,” he said. “Businesses don’t operate without great people and you need them going home every night to their families and friends.”

New Plymouth-based solicitor Sean Maskill​ said that although fines are one way to enforce health and safety laws, educating employers on their obligations is as important.

Kim Campbell, chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), said workplace health and safety practices had improved dramatically in the past five years. High levels of participation in training programmes had led to a greater awareness among employers of their health and safety obligations.

So if you need a modern health and safety system that supports your business goals and ensures you are fully compliant, take a look at our courses. WorksafeReps are New Zealand’s leading network of professional workplace health and safety trainers.