A new bill, currently under debate at Parliament, has the potential to radically affect the vast majority of workplaces and tertiary education providers, including Victoria University.
The Health and Safety Reform Bill, which is on track to pass in a few months, follows growing concern around workplace safety, with accidents like the 2010 Pike River Disaster being widely publicised.
The Bill aims to reduce workplace injury and fatalities by 25 per cent by 2020 by placing more responsibility on each individual in the workplace and shifting emphasis from hazard management to risk management.
Among the proposed changes, each employee, including part-time contractors, will be held responsible for the wellbeing of both themselves and their co-workers by identifying any accident-prone situation and reporting it to their superior.
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Business owners must also engage with their employees by providing health and safety representatives and committees that will deal with situations brought up by workers. Failure to do so may cost someone their job.
Under the Bill, students at Victoria will be required to comply with guidelines such as “reporting accidents and incidents” and “undertaking any health and safety induction required by the University”.
Off-campus activities are also covered by the Bill. This means the University, and more specifically, professors and senior staff members who accompany students on field trips, will be responsible for any harm or accident that may occur.
The University’s Associate Director of Campus Operations Rainsforth Dix told Salient that “the University is committed to ensuring the changes are effectively implemented” but “the underlying principles remain the same: ensuring the safety of our community is paramount”.
According to Work Safe NZ, “on average 73 people die on the job” every year and one in ten is hurt, causing grief to families and costing the country $3.5 billion annually.