Occupational Health and Safety.


14th March, 2018

Occupational Health and Safety for businesses

Find out what you need to know about Occupational Health and Safety in the time that it takes to buy movie tickets.

In the time it takes to buy movie tickets and decide whether you’d prefer a chocolate or vanilla choc-top, this article will help you understand occupational health and safety.

No need for popcorn – this will only take about three minutes to read.

As a small business owner, you’ll find yourself confronted with a variety of acronyms. So, what do you need to know about Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)?

OHS, which is sometimes referred to as WHS (Workplace Health and Safety), involves the assessment of potential risks in the workplace. It also involves putting measures in place to keep your employees safe at work.

It’s important to remember that as an employer, you have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for your employees. That’s where OHS comes in.

Understanding business OHS obligations

OHS standards are built on policies developed by WorkSafe New Zealand on behalf of the government. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) is New Zealand’s workplace health and safety law.

WorkSafe makes sure businesses are kept up to date with the safest work practices, so that Kiwi workplaces can be as safe as possible.

Under New Zealand OHS legislation, business entities and undertakings are considered PCBUs or ‘Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking.’ A PCBU has the ‘primary duty of care’ – aka the primary responsibility for people’s health and safety at work.

PCBUs must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of:

  • Its workers
  • Any other workers it influences or directs
  • Other people who could be put at risk by its work, for example, customers, visitors, children and young people, or the general public

The primary duty of care is a broad, overarching duty which includes having effective practices in place for:

  • Providing and maintaining:
    • A work environment that is without risk to health and safety
    • Safe plants and structures
    • Safe systems of work
    • Adequate facilities for the welfare of workers at work
  • Safe use, handling and storage of plants, substances and structures
  • Training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect people from risks to health and safety
  • Monitoring workplace conditions and employee health to prevent illness or injury to workers

Benefits of OHS

Creating a safe work environment can also have lots of benefits for your business. Some of them might include:

  • Helping you keep great staff
  • Making sure employees can be productive and efficient
  • Lowering the risk of injury and illness in the workplace
  • Reducing the costs of injury and workers’ compensation
  • Spending less time managing or finding cover for injured employees

Differences in OHS for different businesses

As OHS standards are based around different business activities and how risky they are for workers or the environment, OHS requirements will vary from industry to industry. You’ll also find that your OHS responsibilities could change as new policies come into place.

As an employer, one of the best things you can do to keep on top of all this is staying up to date with changes in OHS policy on the WorkSafe New Zealand website.

Top 3 takeaways

If you take three things away from this post, they should be:

  1. Occupational Health and Safety (sometimes known as Workplace Health and Safety) is about keeping workplaces and employees safe
  2. As an employer you have legal OHS obligations to fulfil, which you can keep up to date with on the WorkSafe New Zealand website
  3. Creating a safe workplace also has many benefits for your own business, such as helping you hold on to your staff and lowering cost of injury and compensation

READ NEXT: Business licenses and insurance