In 2015, the 1992 Health and Safety at Work Act was updated with stricter requirements. Previously only “serious harm” accidents (resulting in death or significant injury or illness) needed to be reported and the deadline was a vague “as soon as possible.” In the interest of dealing with hazards to minimise the risk of serious harm, you must now report all “notifiable events” to WorkSafe within 48 hours and keep a record of them for at least 5 years. Aside from serious harm, other notifiable events are uncontrolled occurrences resulting in risk or potential risk to someone. For your average builder, tradie, or civil operator these include: a death onsite, amputations or loss of limbs, serious head or eye injuries (beyond what’s treatable with first aid), or serious lacerations or cuts. It is essential that you have a written process in place in advance so that you don’t miss notifying Worksafe or you may find yourself penalised for non-notification.
This is a criminal offence, which depending on the seriousness of the effects of the event, could land you with any combination of a heavy fine, prison time or closure of your business. While you might get away with it if no one brings any charges related to the event, if legal action is taken at a later date (for example the initial event was a hazard which didn’t initially cause injury or damage but wasn’t dealt with and there was such an outcome at a later date) when the first incident is discovered you will be immediately liable and face prosecution.
For example, In August 2017 two Auckland / Wellington based companies which were part of the same group had to pay out a combined total of nearly $130,000 for failing to report serious injuries to two staff members. Both workers were cutting wood with a bench saw and their hands came into contact with the blade. Both cases required some finger amputation and several months off work. Although Worksafe was not notified about the incident, they eventually found out when one of the employees lodged a complaint nearly two months later.
The resulting investigation discovered that neither employee had been properly trained to work with the equipment and there were not adequate systems in place to manage such risks. Furthermore, the company had been issued an improvement notice by WorkSafe requiring an implantation of a hazard management and control system prior to the events. We urge every business owner out there to learn from these mistakes and immediately put into place good processes to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you.
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