FAQs - WorksafeReps



What is HSWA?2018-07-17T18:39:49+12:00

The Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) which is the legislation that covers workplace safety and health.  It includes regulations that cover worker participation, engagement and representation, risk management, asbestos, hazardous substances, adventure tourism and mines and quarries.

It is enforced by WorkSafe New Zealand (for most workplaces),  Maritime New Zealand (for maritime environments) and Civil Aviation Authority (for aviation).

What is a PCBU?2018-07-17T09:21:08+12:00
  • Person Conducting a Business and Undertaking – this refers to the business or organisation including companies, not-for-profits, partnerships and sole traders.
  • It refers to an entity rather than an individual, natural person.

Worker Involvement

Learn more about how workers can participate and be engaged in health and safety and the role of the health and safety representative with Worksafe Reps. Initial Health and Safety Representative Training | Health and Safety at Work Managers Course

What does the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) say about worker engagement, representation and participation?2018-07-17T10:46:47+12:00

The PCBU must provide workers with reasonable opportunities to participate effectively in improving health and safety on an ongoing basis.

  • In a small workplace (e.g. 5 workers) this could be having a monthly health and safety meeting with all staff.
  • In larger workplaces, workers can elect health and safety representatives to represent their workgroup.
  • Health and safety committees provide a forum for workers or health safety representatives to engage about health and safety.
  • Workers, health and safety representatives and PCBUs (including managers) should deal with each other in good faith.

PCBUs must engage with workers about health and safety matters including identifying hazards and assessing and managing risks. If the workers are represented by a health and safety representative, the engagement must involve that representative.

What is a Health and Safety Representative?2018-07-17T09:33:37+12:00

A Health and Safety Representative is a worker elected by workers in their workgroup to engage with the PCBU about health and safety matters.

What is the role of the Health and Safety Representative?2018-07-17T10:37:10+12:00

The role of the health and safety representative includes:

  • representing workers in matters relating to health and safety;
  • investigating complaints from workers;
  • inquiring into anything that appears to be a risk to health and safety of workers and
  • making recommendations relating to health and safety (Schedule 2 (1) of the Health and Safety a Work Act)

Health and safety representatives are entitled to two days training a year.

Click here to find out more about Initial Training for Health and Safety Representatives

More about HSR functions and powers

What do health and safety committees do?2018-07-17T09:36:56+12:00

They assist the PCBU in developing any standards, rules, policies and procedures relating to health and safety.

They can also get involved in making health and safety plans and reviewing goals, objectives and the effectiveness of risk management.

Health and safety committees should meet at least every three months.

Note that health and safety committees are more effective when members of the committee have had some training in health and safety.

Who should be on a health and safety committee?2018-07-17T09:37:40+12:00
  • At least half the committee must be workers and represent workers.
  • One member must be appointed by the PCBU and be authorized to make decisions on behalf of the PCBU ( i.e. a manager).
  • Each HSR is eligible to be a member of the health and safety committee.

Injury and Incident Reporting and Investigation

Learn more about reporting and investigation with WorkSafe Reps course Stage 2 Managing Risks

Why do injuries and near-misses need to be reported?2018-07-17T10:38:29+12:00

The main purpose of reporting and investigating injuries, illnesses and incidents in the workplace is to put in place preventative actions to make sure the injury or illness does not happen again. By reporting and investigating incidents, the workplace can take to action to prevent devastating, serious injuries occurring.

There is also a legal requirement to report notifiable events. A notifiable event is a death or specified injuries, illness and incidents as defined in the HSW Act.

How should notifiable events be reported to WorkSafe NZ?2018-07-17T19:00:18+12:00

A PCBU must, as soon as possible after becoming aware of a notifiable event, notify WorkSafe NZ of that event, using the fastest means available. This includes by phone or email or other electronic means.

Once details of the event are communicated to WorkSafe NZ, WorkSafe NZ will tell the PCBU if they require written notification. WorkSafe NZ has forms for written notifications.

If they do not require written notification, WorkSafe NZ will acknowledge your notification and confirm that no further action is required.

PCBUs also have a duty to preserve the scene of a notifiable event except for enabling medical treatment, making the scene safe, removing a deceased person or at the direction of an Inspector or Police Officer.

More about what to do if a notifiable event occurs.

How should near-misses, injuries and events be reported in your workplace?2018-07-17T18:52:06+12:00
  • Reporting systems should be easy to understand and use and workers should know how to access them.
  • Workers should be commended for reporting; not blamed because an incident occurred.
  • Injury and incident data should also be reviewed to look for patterns in injuries or incidents that may point to improvements that could be made: for example.
    • Injuries that occur with new workers
    • When workers are fatigued
  • Work-related illness should also be reported.
  • Officers (senior managers and boards) of the PCBU need to know what incidents and injuries have occurred and what is being done to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
What are the barriers to reporting?2018-07-17T09:58:44+12:00
  • Negative comment or action from the employer or PCBU
  • Worry that they will be blamed for the event
  • The paperwork or computer system for reporting is difficult
  • Reporting is time consuming
  • Don’t know how or who to report to.

To overcome barriers to reporting, keep the reporting forms and system easy and make sure it is “no blame”.  Let workers know how and who to report to.  This could include team leaders, managers or the health and safety representative.

Why should incidents and injuries be investigated?2018-07-17T10:00:02+12:00

There should be an investigation into what happened and why, focusing particularly on any changes that could be made to prevent similar events in the future.

Learn more about investigation methods with WorkSafe Reps course Stage 2 Managing Risks

Risk Management

Training in risk management is covered in the following WorkSafe Rep Courses

Initial Health and Safety Representative Training | Health and Safety at Work Managers Course | Stage 2 Managing Risk

Risk management is simply stepping through the work tasks and work environment to identify who can be harmed and how, and then developing ways to prevent that harm. It is important that workers and management communicate and work together through all parts of the risk management process below (identify, assess, manage, monitor and review).

What’s the difference between hazard and risk?2018-07-17T10:02:51+12:00

A hazard is anything that can cause harm.  This includes a person’s behaviour where that behaviour has the potential to cause death, injury, or illness to a person.

Risk involves assessing both the likelihood of harm and the severity of harm arising from a hazard.

For example, a business identifies that there is a hazard of aggressive behaviour from the public. However, the risk may be different for staff from different sites.

The risk is higher for staff who wear the company uniform and work at the front counter compared to those who work in the call centre in a nearby unmarked building with secure access and don’t wear a uniform.

How can risks be identified?2018-07-17T10:07:03+12:00

Hazards should be identified by both management and workers.  It is critical to involve workers in this process.  They are the ones exposed to the hazards and risks and the most likely to be hurt if risk management fails.

Hazards can be identified through:

  • Considering hazards from equipment, machinery, vehicles, hand-held tools, the location and environment, chemicals, biological hazards, design of the work, design of the workplace and how work is organised (including hours worked and shift work).
  • Physical observation
  • Breaking down tasks and processes and thinking about hazards at each step
  • Near-misses, incidents, injuries and illness in the workplace
  • Reviewing industry and WorkSafe information about hazards and risks
  • Checking manufacturers notes
  • Asking “What if?”
    What if:

    • someone put their hand in a moving part of machinery,
    • a child wandered in,
    • gas leaked,
    • something fell from height,

What if someone:

    • dropped something or fell from height,
    • worked three double shifts in a row,
    • absorbed a chemical
    • is bullied at work.
How are risks assessed?2018-07-17T10:52:03+12:00

Hazards and risks are assessed by considering the likelihood and severity of injury or illness.

Involve workers affected by the hazard or risk; their perception is important – they are exposed to the risk.

Also consider broader information from across your organisation and industry.

The matrix below is one matrix that can be used to assess risk.

Likelihood x severity = level of risk


Energy and effort must go into reducing the risk of high risk hazards that could result in fatalities and permanent injuries and risk scoring them enables you to decide if you can continue work while you decide on controls.

Note that all hazards and risks must be controlled.

How should risks be managed?2018-07-18T14:36:45+12:00

Once risk assessment has been completed, risks must be managed.

Section 30 of the HSWA says risks to health and safety should be eliminated so far as reasonably practicable and if not reasonably practicable, to minimise them.

When minimising risks use the hierarchy of control to choose the most effective control.


1 being the ‘most’ effective and 5 being the ‘least’ effective

1. Substitute the risk e.g. different process, equipment, substance
2. Isolate by separating people from the hazard, e.g. sound enclosure around noisy machine
3. Engineering controls e.g. automatic cut-off switches
4. Administrative controls such as policies and safe operating procedures
5. Personal protective equipment, such as hearing protection, steel cap boots, or respirators.


Start at the top of the list, as these are the most effective controls. The controls down the bottom of the list are the least effective.

Relevant workers and managers should be involved in discussing controls as they are the ones who will need to work with the controls. They can identify any potential negative impacts of controls and work out how to manage these.

When you have decided on a way to manage the risk, assess the risk again with controls in place. The risk score should have come down.

Ensure that hazards, risks and their controls are communicated to workers.

What does monitoring risks mean?2018-07-17T10:12:30+12:00

The effectiveness of hazard and risk management should be checked to make sure controls are in place and working.  For example, check training has been carried out, guards are in place, policies are communicated and followed etc.

Monitoring can be carried out through audits, hazard reporting and injury, illness, near-miss injury reporting and investigation.

What does reviewing risks mean?2018-07-17T10:13:00+12:00

There should be a periodic (usually annual) review of hazards and risks and the effectiveness of measures taken to mitigate these.