Worksafe man with Catholic school link knows new law fears

A Worksafe manager who is also on the board of trustees at a Wellington Catholic school says he understands concerns about a new health and safety law.

Worksafe communications general manager John Tulloch said the new legislation reflected modern workplace conditions, the Southland Times reported.

Mr Tulloch is on the board of trustees at St Benedict’s School in Khandallah, Wellington.

He said he understands there was some concern about the Health and Safety at Work Act, which came into force on Monday.

Principals will bear more responsibility when accidents happen at their schools.

Under the act, principals could be held liable if they fail to exercise due diligence in ensuring their school meets health and safety requirements.

Penalties including fines of up to $600,000 or five years imprisonment could be imposed if they fail to do so.

“Let’s not lose sight of the main goal here: New Zealand has a really poor workplace health and safety record, almost twice the rate of Australia, three times the rate of the UK,” Mr Tulloch said.

“There’s nothing new, but having responsibilities for managing risk,” he said.

Information had already been distributed to schools helping explain what the new legislation meant, he added.

A section on both WorkSafe’s and the Ministry of Education’s websites offered further information, he said.

Some school principals have reportedly reacted to the prospect of their being held liable by planning to place their family homes in trusts.

One school in the Wairarapa reportedly imposed a temporary ban on students climbing trees.

The Health and Safety at Work Act was prompted by the Pike River mine disaster in 2010, in which 29 men were killed.


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