The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 is about to come into force on the 4th of April 2016. As far as charities and voluntary organisations are concerned, there are two separate situations that apply.
- If you employ someone then the new law will apply and you will have a duty to ensure the health and safety of the employees and other people who come in contact with the organisation’s activities. For example, secretaries and managers employed by the charitable organisation will be protected under the new Act, and the employers, who will be the directors or trustees of that voluntary organisation will be treated as officers under the new law. The important difference however between trading companies and voluntary organisations is that the volunteer officers of voluntary organisations will not be prosecuted for breaches under the Health and Safety Act. Officers of trading organisations must carry out due diligence to ensure the organisation meets its health and safety obligations and can be prosecuted if they do not meet this duty.
- Casual volunteers who assist with fundraising or sports events are exempt from duties under the new Act. They are not workers who regularly enjoy paid work for their organisation on an ongoing basis. However, this will not exempt an organisation from considering its obligations to its volunteers as well as its paid employees.
It is recommended therefore that voluntary organisations review the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and adopt policies and processes which will assist and protect employees and volunteers carrying out the work of the organisation, whether voluntary or in paid employment. An important reference for all organisations is the WorkSafe New Zealand website which provides detailed information and guidance in respect of health & safety matters.
In New Zealand, our record of health and safety is poor, with over 52 people each year dying on the job with hundreds more being seriously injured. Approximately 600-900 die from work related diseases, and it is intended that through education and taking personal responsibility in the workplace, the health and safety of workers will improve.