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Health and Safety

There are many rules and regulations which guide employers and employees about what they should and should not do in relation to health and safety in their workplace.

If you have any concerns about any aspect of your job safety or health contact your local Union delegate in the first instance. If the matter is serious, contact the Deparment of Labour at any time.

An employer must take all practicable steps to ensure employees are safe and healthy whilst at work. This includes the identification, assessment and control/management of hazards. Significant hazards must be eliminated, or isolated, or minimised in that order.

Employees must do all they can to ensure they do not harm themselves or others while at their place of work. This includes the correct use of any personal protective equipment/clothing supplied by the employer.

Regulations and Requirements

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act) contains all the main legal requirements relating to health and safety in places of work. There are also Regulations and many Codes of Practice approved under the Act’s authority.

A Code of Practice is best described as the “recommended best practice” as it relates to a particular type of work activity, for example there is a Code of Practice for Manual Handling.

The Department of Labour also issue Guidelines which relate to suggested practice for a particular workplace activity. An example of this would be the Guidelines for the Control of Occupationally Acquired Leptospirosis.

The Department of Labour, Health and Safety Section has valuable information which you can access mostly for free at www.osh.dol.govt.nz.

Your Representatives

Elected Health & Safety Representatives have an important role to play in ensuring workers are healthy and safe at their workplaces. Often these representatives are on health and safety committees as well — this is important as it lets workers have a say in their own welfare.

The HSE Act specifically requires employees to have opportunities to be involved in the process of ensuring health and safety in the workplace, it also requires an agreed system for employee participation in health and safety. The Union usually negotiates these systems.

Accident registers must be kept at all workplaces and must contain near-misses/hits as well as actual accident details.

Workplace exposure levels apply when dealing with atmospheric conditions within a work site; these include the safe use of chemicals. You have the right to know what you are working with and you will find that information on Material Safety Data Sheets – if there is no sheet with the chemicals you are working with ask your supervisor to provide one. It will contain details of what to do if you spill, inhale or ingest the chemical and also detail what known side effects there are of working with that chemical.

If you are in any doubt about your workplace safety or health, contact your Union representative on site immediately.

Accident Compensation

Union members are entitled to have a Union representative present at any meetings they have in relation to any aspect of their care and/or rehabilitation while suffering from the effects of a workplace accident, illness or injury.

Union members must first raise any problems they may have in relation to ACC matters with their local on-site Union representative. He or she may well be able to sort the problem out as they often have many years of experience with ACC as well.

If the local Union representative cannot resolve the problem for you, he or she will forward the matter and any relevant documents to the Union’s national office. If they are unable to resolve the matter, the matter may be referred to an ACC Consultant for advice.

As there are strict timeframes within which we must comply to challenge any decisions/problems it is very important that Union members contact their Union representative early in relation to any problems.

ACC Partnership Programme

There are many things that an employer in the Partnership Programme must comply with in order to get into the Programme and also to remain there!

An employer who is in the ACC Partnership Programme is able to manage their own workplace accidents and rehabilitation issues as well as manage their health and safety. The procedures may vary between employers, but the rules that apply to cover, entitlements and rehabilitation remain the same.

The focus is on maintaining certain standards in relation to injury prevention. This programme is audited regularly by ACC to ensure the employer is complying.

If anyone believes that their employer is not complying with the requirements of the programme, contact the Union.

More resources on health and safety and ACC can be found here.

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