The Health and Safety Reform Bill – which imposes tougher fines, broadens the definition of workplace and makes site operators liable for everyone (not just workers) – has been delayed due to a division within the transport and industrial relations select committee.
3News reported this morning that the Bill has hit a hurdle, as the select committee has asked for an extension to decide upon the changes it wants to implement.
The finalised reforms were scheduled to be unveiled today by Workplace Minister Michael Woodhouse, but the committee’s indecision means a two month delay in the presentation of the report.
“I think it's fair to say that caucus have agreed that we should take just a few more weeks to get it right,” Woodhouse said. “As I say, this is the biggest reform in 25 years. I'd much rather get it right than get it early.”
Prime Minister John Key said on Monday that the controversial reforms had been causing debate.
Key admitted that members of the public had been voicing concerns to MPs about the scope of the reforms, but denied speculation that former Small Business Minister Maurice Williamson was considering casting his vote against the passing of the bill.
“Particularly, small businesses are concerned about how it would be administered and would it be fair, how onerous would it be for them to comply, and [if the Bill] would be effective,” the PM said.
“That's a genuine debate that members of the public are having with our caucus and it's something the cabinet's going to have to consider,” he continued. “I've made it quite clear that, when it comes back from the select committee, we are going to toss it around in the cabinet and make sure that we're happy with the recommendations and the settings.”
The Bill is part of a set of legislative reforms which were undertaken after 29 miners died at a Pike River mine that was lacking in essential infrastructure and health and safety practices.
After the tragedy, Shell NZ chairman Rob Jager led an independent health and safety taskforce which was widely regarded as the most sweeping review of New Zealand health and safety structures ever.
The aim of the task force was to reduce workplace deaths in New Zealand by 25% before 2020, leading to the establishment of Worksafe New Zealand.
The new Bill will delegate duties to the individual or body that is deemed the best positioned to control risks to health and safety, defined as the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU).
New requirements for worker participation will give elected health and safety representatives greater powers.
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