The Government has introduced a new Bill in response to the recommendations
of the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy. The main purpose of
the Bill is to bring health and safety in the New Zealand mining industry into
line with international best practice. As well as changes aimed at the
underground coal mining industry, the Bill also seeks to introduce a new health
and safety agency.
The Health and Safety (Pike River Implementation) Bill
The Bill makes the legislative changes necessary to enable the Government to
implement its response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Bill
passed its first reading on 27 June 2013 and has been referred to the select
committee. The select committee is due to report back on 20 October 2013.
The Bill has three parts.
WorkSafe New Zealand
Part 1 of the Bill seeks to improve workplace health and safety by creating a
new Crown agency called WorkSafe New Zealand. Worksafe will be a new stand-alone
agency with a dedicated focus on health and safety. The new entity will assume
the operational functions currently undertaken by MBIE relating to workplace
health and safety and energy safety.
MBIE will maintain responsibility for providing policy advice to the
Government on health and safety matters.
Amendments to the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992
Part 2 of the Bill amends the HSE Act to support the introduction of a
new regulatory regime on the management of hazards in the mining industry. The
new regime will primarily be contained in new mining regulations. The
regulations will include processes for managing hazards; strengthened minimum
standards; requirements for health and safety management systems; new
safety-critical roles, and strengthened training and competency
Mines Rescue Act 2013
Part 3 of the Bill will repeal the Mines Rescue Trust Act 1992 and create a
new Mines Rescue Act 2013. The new Mines Rescue Act is intended to better
reflect the role and functions of the Mines Rescue Trust in providing specialist
search and rescue services in mining emergencies. The Bill also extends cover of
the service beyond coal mines to include underground metalliferous mines and
Safe mines: safe workers discussion document
Earlier this year, the Government released a discussion document seeking
feedback on a number of proposed changes to the mining industry.
The proposed changes included broadening the Royal Commission's
recommendations to cover all types of mines, not just underground coal mines;
introducing a new regulatory approach for mining requiring processes for hazard
management; strengthening training and competency requirements for
safety-critical roles; increasing worker participation in health and safety in
mining operations, and improving emergency preparedness. Feedback on the
recommendations closed on 1 July 2013.
Petroleum Exploration and Extraction Regulations 2013
The proposed reform of the mining industry follows the recent introduction of
new regulations raising the standard for workplace safety in petroleum
exploration and extraction.
On 30 June 2013, new Health and Safety in Employment (Petroleum
Exploration and Extraction) Regulations 2013 came into effect, replacing the
1999 regulations. The new regulations are aimed at strengthening the management
of hazards, as well as safeguards associated with drilling. This includes
ensuring well integrity at every stage of an operation by requiring an
installation safety case, a well operations notice and a well examination
Recent High Court decision on scope of principal's liability
On 1 July 2013, the High Court dismissed an appeal by MBIE against the
decision of the District Court in DOL v Southroads Limited. That case
concerned the scope of a principal's liability under the HSE Act, and whether
the principal had taken all reasonably practicable steps by engaging an expert
as a contractor.
The District Court Judge had noted that each case is a matter of fact and
degree, and found in that case that there was no breach of the HSE Act by
the principal in delegating responsibilities to a contractor. The Judge also
commented that the obligations on a principal under the HSE Act could not
have been intended to require a principal "to be an insurer".
The High Court dismissed the case on the grounds that it did not give rise to
a question of law, but went on to consider the substance of the appeal. The High
Court upheld the District Court decision and held that the factual conclusion
was available to the Judge on the evidence. The High Court endorsed earlier
commentary that the requirement to take all reasonably practicable steps does
not require a counsel of perfection; that the principal had no reason in the
circumstances of that case to assume that its contractor (an expert) would make
a fundamental error; and that it is always a question of fact and degree as to
whether delegation of responsibilities was appropriate.
The decision is noted for the Court's recognition that a principal and
contractor may agree to shift responsibility for health and safety matters under
contract. However, this does not mean that a principal can entirely escape the
risk of liability and each case will ultimately turn on its own facts.
The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Rebecca Compson of
the University of Otago in preparing this
This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.