“The changes were signalled a long time ago so many [employers] were taking steps in the last 24 months or so – some have not taken steps and are finding themselves anxious and worried about the new penalties that have come in and the new systems,” says Garth Galloway
, health and safety lawyer Garth Gallaway.
“The advice we’re giving to people is, if they’ve had good systems in place in the past, they have nothing to fear in the new legislation – it really does just codify what’s been in place in the past.”
Gallaway, a partner with Chapman Tripp, says his clients are also concerned about the obligation of due diligence that directors and CEOs have now found themselves under.
“That’s causing a lot of anxiety for many of them,” he told HRM. “Our advice is if they have good systems in place and simple, straight-forward systems that allow them to exercise their due diligence they should have nothing to fear.”
Christchurch-based Gallaway says one of the main concerns coming from employers is around the penalties they face if they happen to breach the Act.
“I think that’s the wrong thing to focus on because the thing to focus on is how do you have good health and safety systems and that needs to be the starting point,” he stressed. “If you have those in place, you don’t need to worry about what the penalties are because you’re not going to breach the Act.”
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Six months after the contentious Health and Safety at Work Act and employers are still concerned about potential repercussions but – according to one industry lawyer – there’s little need to fret.