Health and Safety Act


As an employer, you are responsible for the inactions or actions of your employees that cause harm to anyone. This includes fellow workers, visitors to the workplace or members of the public going about their business. Specifically, section 15 of the Health and Safety Act states: 

Duties of employers to people who are not employees.

·         Every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure that no action or inaction of any employee while at work harms any other person.

A simple statement but with huge reach. A recent case in New Zealand highlights the significance of this section of the Health and Safety Act. A truck company was carrying out its own internal maintenance on a truck, and an employee did not fit the wheel correctly. The wheel detached from the truck and flew into a bus heading in the other direction, eventually killing a man due to the brain injuries sustained. Under investigation it was found that the employee was untrained and not skilled to be able to service the truck. Having performed the servicing, the Judge determined, the company should have scheduled a basic procedure to recheck the nuts after say 150km, and confirm the job had been performed correctly. The company was fined $5000 and ordered to pay $68 000 in reparations. 

What does this mean to you? We have talked often about the need for proper hazard identification and looking at your equipment. Basic maintenance is not only smart in terms of keeping machinery operating efficiently, but in terms of safety. However, if cost savings are made using internal labour then additional systems need to be in place to ensure workmanship is up to speed. Would you allow an untrained mechanic to work on your family car? Going forward for your business then the key is to have all plant on some kind of ‘warrant –of-fitness’ programme that will ensure checks are made. The warrant of fitness or maintenance schedule can then be pegged back to the type of work required, and then details on what sort of skills are needed.  This will help ensure the person carrying out the work trained accordingly. Of course, it may be cheaper to outsource the work and ensure you employ a reputable maintainer to ensure the intent of Section 15 of the a Health and Safety Act is met.