The Health and Safety (Pike River Implementation) Bill was introduced to the House this week, following the Royal Commission’s recommendation that a new stand-alone Crown agency be created for workplace health and safety. This Bill includes the necessary legislative changes to allow the Government’s response to be implemented.
In three parts, the Bill:
- Establishes WorkSafe New Zealand, as the new health and safety agency
- Makes amendments to the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992
- Creates a new Mines Rescue Act 2013.
In the second part, the amendments to the Health and Safety in Employment Act are focussed on the mining industry, with a new set of mining regulations and the introduction of processes such as a compulsory requirement for all mining operations to have a documented worker participation system in health and safety.
Mine health and safety representatives are to be elected, with a list of statutory functions as well as fairly wide-reaching powers. These include powers to:
- Attend interviews between staff and management regarding health and safety
- Enter and inspect a mining operation
- Examine and copy documents
- Accompany an Inspector who has entered a mining operation
- Consult with an Inspector on any health and safety issue
- Issue a Hazard Notice if he or she believes there is a hazard in the mine operation
- Give notice requiring the whole or part or aspect of a mining operation to be suspended, if the representative believes that it is likely to cause serious harm to any person
- Require immediate cessation of the whole or part or aspect of a mining operation, if the representative believes that it is likely to cause serious harm to any person.
If work stops by the representative exercising the last two of these powers, the mine workers must do other work within the scope of their employment. Work in the mine must not re-start until the site senior executive is satisfied that there is no likelihood of serious harm.
A New Zealand Mining Board of Examiners is to be created, with the aim of adding rigour and independence to the setting and assessment of necessary competencies in the mining industry. Mining industry health and safety representatives are also to be appointed, by a union or group of employees, with the functions of a mine representative and additional functions to participate in accident investigations and assist with industry-wide initiatives.
Among the ‘miscellaneous provisions’ of the Bill, there are immunities for acts done in good faith by those who respond to emergencies at a mining operation or are testing a mine’s emergency management plan.