If you are a New Zealand business, manage business travellers or travel for business then you need to read this article. Specifically we review the upcoming occupational health and safety changes to introduced by the end of 2015 and the effect it will have on business travel. By the end of the article you will know how it affects you, your business and your business travellers.

New Zealand is quickly approaching the introduction of new health and safety reforms, anticipated to be in a effect and enforced by the end of 2015. These reforms are long overdue and are modelled along similar lines to Australia’s updated Workplace Health and Safety Harmonisation efforts.

Essentially, it will be a case of “out with the old….and in with the new” when it comes to workplace health and safety. There will be a far greater emphasis on accountability. It is further reinforced with establishment of WorkSafe New Zealand and a new health and safety regulator, which undoubtably will be enforcing the reforms.

Business leaders and managers [primarily “officers”] will be personally responsible for due diligence. Significant penalties apply, inclusive of finds up to $3 million for companies and $600,000 for individuals, along with up to 5 years imprisonment, such is the gravity of violations and emphasis on greater work place safety compliance.

Broader terms of reference for what has been a traditional categorisation of employees will also be introduced, termed “persons conducting a business or undertaking’ [PCBUs], whether they are undertaking business activity alone or with others.

Employees, contractors and other works terminology will be removed and replace by a general categorisation of “workers”. PCBUs will be responsible for all the compliant obligations imposed on employers, principals, people in control of work and self-employed people, along with a number of addition obligations.

“Reasonably practicable” steps will the new requirement to ensure safety of workers carrying out work for PCBU, and those influenced, managed or directed by the PCBU. This means that commercial and administrative consideration will be given to what “could/should” be done for workplace safety.

Due diligence will be comprehensive and compliance based. Specifically:

  1. to eliminate risks to health and safety, so far as reasonably practicable, and
  2. if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety, to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Businesses and their management will need to consider the likelihood of a hazard creating a risk for workers, the degree of harm that may result, what the PCBU knows [or should reasonably know about the hazard] along with the availability and sustainability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk. Financial consideration is also taken into account, such as the cost associated with eliminating or minimising the risk. In short, a business may not be expected to spend a $1,000,000 to reduce a $1 hazard, but would certainly be held accountable if it failed to spend $1 to eliminate/reduce a $1,000,000 hazard.

Government travel advisories have never been commercially relevant, however the use and reliance on such resources fails even the basic workplace safety and compliance standards. Business will no longer be able to use these for workplace safety management, for travellers or expats. If 200 people share the same travel safety “risk rating”, regardless of gender, experience, activity and duration of travel then it is not travel safety management system at all….it is a newspaper at best.

Single journey safety management budgets will need to be established and produced in support of ‘safe work systems’. If you can’t demonstrate the costs applied in eliminating or managing the hazards, you don’t have a system in short.

All the things you now have to do in the workplace, will equally apply to a mobile or travelling worker. Driving, fatigue management, inductions, training, due diligence, compliance [not conformity] all now apply for travel safety management to be effective and compliant.

The worker has the right to stop all unsafe work, including travel. Travel managers and travel management companies are now also included in the hazard identification and risk mitigation process.

Detailed records, reporting and “notifiable injury or illness” are now included in the reform. Travellers that are injured, are sick and even those that are ill after a journey are now workplace safety reporting metrics.

What a “workplace” means has been termed as “a place where work is carried out for business or undertaking and includes any place where a worker goes, is likely to be, while at work”. This means that hotels, cars, cafes, home offices, overseas locations, airports and a host of other locations the individual is working are now officially considered a workplace. A business may not be held reasonably accountable for all of these work environments or required detailed documentation for them all, but a total disregard for there inclusion and safe work standards will place both worker and business in avoidable risk.

Business owners and managers will need to:

  1. keep up to day on work health and safety matters
  2. consider the context of operations, risks and hazards specific to their work environment
  3. ensure appropriate resources and processes are in place to eliminate/minimise risk
  4. appropriate systems for processing, receiving and managing incidents, hazards and risks and related information
  5. ensure compliance
  6. verify all of the above with demonstrable due diligence and safe work systems

If the only travel safety management evidence you have is  plane ticket, hotel booking and travel expense report, you are in serious trouble!

Financial decision making is also a factor. If you or your business has made financial errors in the management of your workplace health and safety obligations, this will also factor into liability and prosecution. These financial considerations will apply to specific journeys, individual and specific work activities, not what the company spend overall last year or any subscriptions, group plans, etc you might have in place. In short, if you can’t demonstrate the cost of risk management for each journey, you have exposure.

Travel health and safety statistics, metrics and other measurable factors are also now a consideration. Data/trend analysis is now a basic requirement. This will apply to each traveller and the context in which they travel, along with their own personal factors that impact the overall risk levels, based on hazards.

Travel policies will need to encompass health and safety requirements, not ‘how much and when’ policies that are more conformity documents. This means that specific ‘safe work systems’ will need to be demonstrated in travel polices, as with other aspects of the business.

The new reform does not expressly include international travel or assignments, unless of course they are on New Zealand contracts, however businesses are advised against creating clear ‘class’ systems between what is acceptable safe work procedure in more traditional work environments and that when travelling. e.g if seatbelt use is mandatory in the work environment, why are travellers permitted to travel in vehicles without basic safety equipment?

If preparation of travellers takes place within New Zealand, then all regulations remain extant.

Negligence and due diligence can not be substituted or outsourced via travel insurance.

Few businesses will be ready for this change. Few managers will have the existing expertise and experience to prepare for this, none-the-less compliance will be mandatory once in effect.

if you are a New Zealand business, manage business travellers or travel for business then you need to act now. We reviewed the upcoming occupational health and safety changes and the effect it will have on business travel. By now, you should know how it affects you, your business and your business travellers. Don’t expose yourself, your business or travellers to preventable or foreseeable risks. Act now.

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