New Zealand WHS FAQ

Q. What is New Zealand’s current Legislative Framework?

A. On Monday 4 April 2016, the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) came into effect.

 The majority of the first phase of regulations to support HSWA have been now been finalised and came into force on 4 April 2016, along with the Act. 

The regulations, supported with information and guidance from WorkSafe New Zealand, are intended to support businesses (particularly small businesses) to understand what they need to do to comply with the general duties of the Act.

The detailed regulations are available on the  Legislation website.

  • Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016
  • Health and Safety at Work (Worker Engagement, Participation and Representation) Regulations 2016
  • Health and Safety at Work (Major Hazard Facilities) Regulations 2016
  • Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016
  • Health and Safety at Work (Adventure Activities) Regulations 2016
  • Health and Safety at Work (Mining Operations and Quarrying Operations) Regulations 2016
  • Health and Safety at Work (Petroleum Exploration and Extraction) Regulations 2016
  • Health and Safety at Work (Rates of Funding Levy) Regulations 2016


Q. Who enforces New Zealand’s Occupational Health and Safety in New Zealand?


A. The Department of Labour (DoL) administers and is the lead agency responsible for ensuring compliance with the HSE and HSNO Act in most workplaces. Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) administer and enforce the HSE Act in the maritime and aviation sectors respectively.

The Ministry for the Environment administers the HSNO Act, although the Act charges the Environmental Risk Management Authority with many functions. Responsibility for enforcing the HSNO Act falls to the following agencies:

  • The Department of Labour (DoL) -in respect of workplaces
  • The Ministry of Economic Development (in respect of gas installations)
  • The New Zealand Police (in respect of motor vehicles and railways)
  • The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) -in respect of aircraft and aerodromes
  • Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) -in respect of ships
  • The Ministry of Health (in respect of protecting the public health)
  • Territorial authorities (in respect of all other locations).


Q. Who administers New Zealand’s Rehabilitation and Compensation System?

A. The lead agency for the rehabilitation and compensation system is the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). This agency is charged with delivering a 24-hour, no-fault, comprehensive insurance system for personal injuries that occur in New Zealand (including work-related injuries). ACC has a key function of preventing injury, which is given effect through incentives programmes and other specific programmes targeted at reducing the impact of occupational injury and disease.


Q. What is New Zealand’s National WHS Policy Framework?

A. New Zealand is serviced by two key national policies to support the prevention of work-related injury and disease: the New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy (NZIPS) and the Workplace Health and Safety Strategy (WHSS). The WHSS, in particular, provides a clear set of strategic outcomes with regard to work-related injury and disease and details the actions necessary to achieve them. Priority areas for the WHSS are:

  • airborne substances
  • psychosocial work factors
  • workplace vehicles
  • vulnerable workers
  • manual handling
  • small business
  • slips, trips and falls
  • high-risk industries. 


Q. What is New Zealand’s Health and Safety Reform Bill?

A. Working Safer: a blueprint for health and safety at work reforms New Zealand’s health and safety system following the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety and the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy.

When the new Health and Safety at Work Act comes into force, it will replace the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and the Machinery Act 1950.

The Bill is currently before parliament. The new select committee has a report back of 30 March 2015 and then the Bill will continue its progression through the parliamentary process. It is likely that the Bill will come into force in the second half of 2015


Q.What is a SWMS?

A. SWMS is a Safe Work Method Statement.

A SWMS is a written document that sets out the high risk construction work activities to be carried out at a workplace, the hazards and risks arising from these activities and the measures to be put in place to control the risks. Its primary purpose is to help supervisors and workers implement and monitor the control measures established at the workplace to ensure high risk construction work is carried out safely.  An example of a SWMS can be found here.


Q. What is a JSA?

A. Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is one of the risk assessment tools used to identify and control workplace hazards.  A JSA is a second tier risk assessment with the aim of preventing personal injury to a person, or their colleagues, and any other person passing or working adjacent, above or below. JSAs are also known as Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) and Task Hazard Analysis (THA).


Q. What is a JSEA?

A. A Job Safety and Environmental Analysis (JSEA) is the same as a JSA or a SWMS but also considers the risks to the environment and control measures to minimise these risks. An example of a JSEA can be found here.


Q. What is the difference between a SWMS and a JSEA?

A. A Job Safety and Environmental Analysis (JSEA) is essentially the same as a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) but also considers the risks to the environment and control measures to minimise these risks. They all follow the following 3 basic elements:

Job step – what are you going to do?

Potential Hazard – What can go wrong or cause injury to persons or property

Hazard control measure – What are you going to do to make sure it doesn’t go wrong or cause injury.


Q. Does JSEAsy produce a SWMS or a JSEA?

A. The JSEAsy software produced a hybrid SWMS/ JSEA document. 

  • By inserting the steps that you are going to take, in the order that you are going to take them you are creating a Work Method Statement.
  • By identifying the potential hazards associated with each step and ways to control them you are creating a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) or a Job Safety and Analysis (JSA).
  • By identifying Environmental Hazards associated with each step and ways to control them you are creating a JOB Safety and Environmental Analysis (JSEA). 

JSEAsy wraps all this into one document.


Q. Will the document created from JSEAsy be compliant in New Zealand and with the new Health and Safety at Work Act ?

A. Yes. The documents produced from the JSEAsy software are compliant with all of the new regulations.


Q. Is preparing a SWMS or JSEA mandatory?

A.  Preparing a SWMS is mandatory in some cases as described in the Reform Bill in particular:

  • A Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) must be prepared before high risk construction work
  •  A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure the high risk construction work is carried out in accordance with the SWMS for the work


Q. I am not undertaking High Risk Construction Work. Is preparing a SWMS or JSEA mandatory in my circumstances?

A. Preparing a SWMS is not necessarily mandatory in many instances; however you may find that it may be a good way of ensuring you are meeting your obligations with the Regulations under the reform bill.


Q.  What Is a Code of Practice in New Zealand?

A. An approved code of practice is a practical guide to achieving the standards of health, safety  and welfare required under the Reform Bill

Codes of Practice provide practical guidance on how to meet the standards set out in the WHS Act and the WHS Regulations. Codes of Practice are admissible in proceedings as evidence of whether or not a duty under the WHS laws has been met. They can also be referred to by an inspector when issuing an improvement or prohibition notice.


Q. Is a Code of Practice Mandatory?

A. A code of practice applies to anyone who has a duty of care in the circumstances described in the code. In most cases, following an approved code of practice would achieve compliance with the health and safety duties in the WHS Act, in relation to the subject matter of the code.


Q. I am self-employed, do I need to prepare a SWMS or JSEA ?

A. Yes. Under the WHS acts and legislations at self-employed person is considered to be a PCBU. Under the OH&S Acts and legislation, a self-employed person must comply with the requirements  as if that person were an employer.


Q. What is a PCBU?

A.  Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) – a person conducting a business or undertaking alone or with others, whether or not for profit or gain. A PCBU can be a sole trader (for example a self-employed person), each partner within a partnership, company, unincorporated association or government department of public authority (including a municipal council).

An elected member of a municipal council acting in that capacity is not a PCBU.

A ‘volunteer association’ that does not employ anyone is not a PCBU. If it becomes an employer it also becomes a PCBU for purposes of the WHS Act.

A ‘strata title body corporate’ that does not employ anyone is not a PCBU, in relation to any common areas (it is responsible for) used only for residential purposes. For further information on the meaning of PCBU please refer to Worksafe New Zealand


Q. What does my organisation need to do to comply with WHS laws?

A. Under the work health and safety (WHS) laws your organisation it must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all of its workers, including volunteers. This means that the organisation must provide the same protections to its volunteer workers as it does to its paid workers. The protection covers the physical safety and mental health of all workers, including volunteers.

This primary duty on an organisation is qualified by ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’. This means the organisation does not have to guarantee that no harm will occur, but must do what is reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety. If your organisation is run by volunteers, this is a factor that will be taken into account in determining what is reasonably practicable for the organisation to do in any given circumstance.


Q. What is reasonably practicable?

A. Safe Work Australia provides guidance on the interpretation and application of the term ‘reasonably practicable’ in considering the standard of health and safety that a person conducting a business or undertaking (the duty-holder) is expected to meet under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and Regulations.

‘Reasonably practicable’ is used to qualify duties to ensure health and safety and certain other duties in the WHS Act and Regulation. This standard and what is required to meet it in relation to a health and safety duty are set out in section 18.


Q. How is ‘reasonably practicable’ defined?

A. In this context, reasonably practicable means that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters including:

  1. the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring
  2. the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk
  3. what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about the hazard or risk, and ways of eliminating or minimising the risk
  4. the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk, and
  5. after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.


Q. Do I have to identify hazards under the WHS regulations?

A. Regulation 34 states that a duty holder, in managing risks to health and safety, must identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to risks to health and safety.


Q. What is the Hierarchy of Controls?

A. Some control measures are more effective than others. Control measures can be ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. This ranking is known as the hierarchy of control. The higher order controls must always be considered first. 

Eliminating the risk

This means removing the hazard or hazardous work practice from the workplace. This is the most effective control measure and must always be considered before anything else. For example, eliminate the risk of a fall from a height by doing the work at ground level.

If elimination of the risk is not reasonably practicable, you must consider using substitution, isolation or engineering controls, or a combination of these control measures, to minimise the risk.


Minimising the risk by using one of the following control measures


Minimise the risk by substituting or replacing a hazard or hazardous work practice with a less hazardous one. For example:

  • Substituting a two-part epoxy substance with a water-based acrylic waterproofing system will minimise exposure to a hazardous substance;
  • Substituting an ordinary brick-cutting saw blade with a noise-reduced saw blade will minimise exposure to hazardous noise; and
  • Using a water-based paint rather than a solvent-based paint. Minimise the risk by isolating or separating the hazard or hazardous work practice from people. For example:


Minimise the risk by isolating or separating the hazard or hazardous work practice from people. For example:

  • Isolating a mobile plant work zone from workers and/or the public with physical barriers to minimise the risk of contact occurring between a person and the mobile plant.

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are physical control measures to minimise risk. For example:

  • Carrying tools from one level to another with a material hoist or craning material will minimise the risk of workers developing a musculoskeletal disorder.
  • Benching, battering or shoring the sides of the excavation will minimise the risk of a person being trapped and prevent the excavation from collapsing.
  • Enclosing an open cab excavator, for example using a falling object protective structure (FOPS) or a roll-over protective structure (ROPS), will minimise the risk of an operator being struck by a falling object or being crushed if the excavator rolls over.
  • Using safety switches or residual current devices (RCD) to minimise the risk of electric shock.


Minimising the risk using administrative controls

Administrative controls should only be considered when other higher order control measures are not practicable, or to increase protection from the hazard. These are work methods or procedures designed to minimise the exposure to a hazard, such as ensuring there is no unauthorised entry of a person to a work area. For example:

  • Using a ‘keep out’ sign and a person to secure an exclusion zone when dismantling scaffolding to minimise the risk of people entering the work area and being struck by a falling object.
  • Scheduling tasks so they are completed outside peak UV radiation times to reduce exposure to UV radiation.
  • Implementing a training program to show workers how to use new equipment.
  • Implementing a job rotation system.
  • Using permit systems to prevent unauthorised persons from entering a confined space.

Minimising the risk using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is the lowest order control measure in the hierarchy of controls. PPE should also only be considered when other higher order control measures are not reasonably practicable or to increase protection from the hazard.

PPE relies on the proper fit and use of the PPE and does nothing to change the hazard itself. It therefore requires thorough training and effective supervision to ensure compliance and effectiveness. Examples of PPE include:

  • Wide brimmed hats that shade face, head, neck and ears (where hard hats are required then it should be a hard hat brim or neck flap), sunglasses and broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen to minimise the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
  • High visibility reflective clothing or vests.
  • Ear plugs or ear muffs to minimise the risk of exposure to excessive noise when operating noisy machinery and power tools.


Combination of control measures

In many cases a combination of control measures may be implemented to control a risk. When selecting and implementing a combination of control measures it is important to consider whether any new risks might be introduced as a result and, if so, whether the combination of the control measures should be reviewed.

Example 1

 To manage the risk of a fall when a worker is removing old roofing on a building under demolition, control measures may include the following:

  • determine whether the roof can be demolished from the ground (elimination)
  • if this is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risk of a fall by working off scissor lifts and/or elevating work platforms (engineering control)
  • provide training on site rules and SWMS about work at heights (administrative control).

Example 2

To manage the risk of persons working in the same area from being struck by mobile plant, control measures may include:

  • using traffic lights instead of a traffic controller to control traffic at road works (elimination)
  • replacing an item of mobile plant which has a restricted field of vision to one that has a clear field of vision (substitution)
  • using zero tail swing excavators rather than conventional tail swing excavators (substitution)
  • segregating the work processes through distance and time (isolation)
  • installing collision avoidance technology (in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions) when the vehicle is reversing (engineering)
  • developing and implementing a traffic management plan for any traffic control being carried out (administrative)
  • requiring all workers to wear high visibility reflective clothing or vests (PPE).

Under the WHS Regulations:

Regulation 36 sets out the hierarchy of control measures which must be implemented to minimise risks to health and safety if it is not reasonably practicable for a duty holder to eliminate risks to health and safety.

Sub-regulation 36(2) requires that a duty holder implement risk control measures in accordance with regulation 36.

Sub-regulation 36(3) specifies that a duty holder must minimise risk, so far as is reasonably practicable by undertaking one or more of:

• substituting the hazard giving rise to the risk with something that gives rise to a lesser risk,

• isolating the hazard from any person exposed to the hazard, and

• implementing engineering controls.


Sub-regulation 36(4) provides that if a risk then remains, the duty holder must minimise the remaining risk, so far as is reasonably practicable, by implementing administrative controls.

Sub-regulation 36(5) states that if a risk still remains the duty holder must minimise the remaining risk, so far as is reasonably practicable, by ensuring the provision and use of suitable personal protective equipment.

Regulation 36 also notes that a duty holder may use a combination of control measures to minimise a risk, so far as is reasonably practicable, if a single control measure is not sufficient for the purpose.

Hierarchy of Controls


Q. Do I have to have my harness and personal equipment inspected?

A.  Yes. In accordance with AS/NZS 1891.1 & AS/NZS 1891.4 and inspection must be carried out by a competent person.


The following items shall be subjected to inspection by the operator of each item before and after each use to ensure that it is in a serviceable condition:

(a) Personal equipment—harnesses, lanyard assemblies, connectors, fall-arrest devices.

(b) Common use equipment—ropes, slings, fall-arrest devices, mobile attachment devices together with any other items in Item (a) above that are provided for common use.


Inspection shall be by sight and touch. It shall include the opening of any equipment where access for daily inspection is provided, to ensure that internal components are in satisfactory condition. This requirement includes the opening or removal of temporary rope or line protectors, to enable rope to be properly inspected. Operation of the locking mechanism on fall-arrest devices shall also be checked.


It should be impressed upon operators that their lives depend upon the continued efficiency and durability of their equipment and that a proper inspection at each time of use is their first line of defence against the hazards of faulty equipment.

WHS- Form 28 – Anchor Strap Inspection

WHS- Form 29 – Harness Inspection

WHS- Form 30 – Adjustable Rope Line Inspection 

WHS- Form 31 – Shock Absorbing Lanyard Inspection

WHS- Form 35 – Horizontal Safety Line Inspection


Q. How often do I have to have my harness and personal equipment inspected?


A.  In accordance with AS/NZS 1891.1 & AS/NZS 1891.4 inspections must be carried as listed in the table below:




Personal equipment including harnesses, lanyard assemblies, connectors, fall-arrest devices including common use devices

Inspection by operator before and after each use

Fall-arrest devices—external check only

3-monthly inspection by competent person

Belts, harnesses, lanyard assemblies and associated personal equipment

6-monthly inspection by competent person*

Permanently installed anchorages

12-monthly inspection/service by competent person*

Fall-arrest devices—full service including dismantling where indicated

12-monthly inspection/service by competent person*

Horizontal lifelines and rails, including integral components and permanently installed mobile attachment devices

12-monthly inspection/service by competent person*

 * Or more frequently if recommended by the manufacturer or supplier


Q. What is a Hazard?

A. A Hazard is an object or situation with potential to cause injury, illness or damage. It is often useful to consider sources of energy, electrical, chemical, kinetic (movement), potential (static), and the movement of people. Standards Australia defines a hazard thus:

“HAZARD – a source or a situation with the potential for harm in terms of human injury or ill-health, damage to property, damage to the environment, or a combination of these.”


Q. What is the Hazard Identification and Assessment Process?

 A. According to the Occupational Health and Safety legislation, employers are required to assess a work site for existing and potential hazards before work begins.

The Hazard Identification and Assessment process will impact many other elements of the Health and Safety Management System. As a result, it is important to take the time necessary to do the job thoroughly. Hazard assessment data can also be used to develop other elements of a Health and Safety Management System, including:

Incident Investigations: hazard assessment and control data can be used to help determine if a system failure was the cause of an incident

Emergency Response: use hazard assessments to help pinpoint areas that will require Emergency Response Plans.

Work Site Inspections: use hazard assessment data as the basis for inspection checklists.

Training and Orientation: use hazard assessment data to determine what worker training needs to be done, and to build the content of employee orientations and job-specific training.


Q. How do I identify Hazards?

A. Occupational hazards are divided into two categories:

Health Hazards: A health hazard may produce serious and immediate (acute) health effects or cause long-term (chronic) health problems. All or part of the body may be affected. Someone with an occupational illness may not recognize the symptoms immediately. For example, noise-induced hearing loss is often not noticed until it is well advanced.

Safety Hazards: A safety hazard is anything that could endanger the immediate safety of an employee, for example, a pinch point, crush, or burn hazard.

Hazard Categories Both health and safety hazards can be classified into the following categories:

Physical hazards, including lifting, repetitive motions, slipping, machinery, working at heights, loud noise, extreme temperatures, etc.

Chemical Hazards, including exposure to chemicals, dusts, fumes, mists and vapours.

Biological Hazards, including exposure to viruses, fungi, bacteria, moulds, body fluids, and sewage.

Psychological Hazards, including violence, stress and fatigue.

Q. What is the difference between Hazard and Risk?

A. The terms “hazard” and “risk” are often used interchangeably (and incorrectly). A hazard is a situation, condition, or behaviour that has the potential to cause an injury or loss. For example, ice on a walkway, oven mitts with burn holes, or an unlabelled bottle of liquid are hazards. In contrast, risk is the chance of injury, damage, or loss and is usually expressed as a probability. For example, the risk of slipping on the icy walkway is high.


Q. What is Imminent Danger?

A. Some hazards are significant enough to present a situation of imminent danger. The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that workers stop performing work if they believe that an imminent danger to their health and safety exists. Imminent danger in relation to any occupation means a danger that is not normal for that occupation, or a danger under which a person engaged in that occupation would not normally carry out the work


Q. What are the sources of Hazards?

A. There are many sources of hazards in a workplace, however, the three most likely sources that should be considered are:

Workplace Environment: Factors such as facility layout, ventilation and lighting, walking surfaces, temperature and other variables can all be sources of hazards.

Equipment and Materials: Some equipment, tools and materials used in the job process are inherently hazardous, and others become hazardous over time due to inadequate maintenance, storage, or disposal.

People: Lack of training, poor communication, rushing, fatigue, and other factors may cause at-risk behaviours.


Q. What is a Hazard Report Form used for?

A. A hazard report form is used when workers have identified a potential hazard that cannot be simply and immediately fixed.


Q. What is Hearsay?

A. This is information about an event that is presented by a person who did not actually witness events directly. Basically, it is a second-hand account of the facts as observed by someone else.


Q. What is an Incident?

A. A term that covers situations that lead, or are likely to lead, to injury, illness or damage. This includes situations where injury illness and/or damage have occurred, as well as near-hit events, where no injury, illness or damage occurred.


Q. What is an Incident investigation?

A.The investigation of all circumstances that led up to, occurred during, and resulted from, an incident. The ‘Accident Investigator’s Rhyme‘ is of use here:

“How? And Why? And Where? And When?

And Who? And What? And back again…”

Repeat the exercise three times.

Another tool of use is the ‘Four P Principle’:

“People – Parts – Position – Power.”

‘People’ looks at the human element of who etc. as well as their state of awareness, wellness, and so forth;

‘Parts’ considers the plant and substances;

‘Position’ is the four dimensions of length, bredth, height, and time;

‘Power’ includes various sources of kinetic and/or potential energy, gas, electricity, pressure, decay, heat, cold, etc.

Make no mistake: if you can correctly determine the above elements, you are going to be very close to knowing what went on, and therefore take steps to achieve the aim of good health and safety practice after an incident:



Note Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote:

“When we eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth!”