We’re unprepared: health and safety expert


Too many Queenstown companies are ignoring a landmark new workplace health and safety law coming into effect this coming Monday, it’s claimed.

Local health and safety advisor John Frampton says a lot of cafes, bars, subcontractors and body corporates and property management companies have little or nothing in place.

He also alleges many adventure tourism companies protect the health and safety of their clients but not their staff.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, company managers and directors who haven’t got a health and safety plan for their workplace can be fined heavily, or even imprisoned, if an employee suffers an accident on the job.

“I’m probably disappointed with the amount of take-up that there’s been,” Frampton says, particularly as the Employers’ Association, Chamber of Commerce, law firms and other organisations have run seminars.

“I would have thought a lot more would have taken it onboard.”

He says larger hotels, building and road construction firms and tourism operators are generally prepared - some even have their own health and safety staff.

There are also smaller firms that are onto it.

Many others, however, are woefully unprepared, he believes: “It’s coming back to that classic phrase that we have in health and safety where they say ‘it doesn’t affect me’ and ‘I haven’t had an incident or accident, so I’m safe’.”

To meet the new legislation, Frampton says a cafe, for example, needs to identify hazards - like cooking vats and ovens - and ensure staff are adequately trained to operate them.

A health and safety policy has to have buy-in from the staff, he adds.

“It’s about having a safety culture and maintaining it.”

Frampton singles out Queenstown’s ethnic restaurants as a potential problem: “Some of the owners of these establishments come from cultures where nothing needs to be in place for health and safety and they certainly haven’t embraced the changes required.”

He also reckons many local property managers and body corporates who oversee apartment blocks will be found wanting.

“Once you have someone working at height on repairs and maintenance on a building, the risk increases accordingly.”

Under the new Act, he says property managers and body corporates are also responsible for the safety of anyone contracted to work for them, like sparkies and plumbers.

Frampton acknowledges adventure tourism operators are doing a good job complying with health and safety rules for their clients.

“But we’re finding that staff have to some extent been left out of health and safety compliance.

“If a staff member were injured, not necessarily while doing the activity, then the employer would be vulnerable if they didn’t have things in place.”

Again, he notes that major operators like Ngai Tahu Tourism and Real Journeys are very aware of their obligations, and also drug and alcohol-test their staff.

Frampton doesn’t expect WorkSafe New Zealand, the government agency which will regulate the Act, will go door-to-door checking on local businesses.

But he says it would step in if there’s a workplace accident.