Clarity needed on Health and Safety Reform Bill
Clarity needed on Health and Safety Reform Bill grey areas, says NZRA
The New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) is calling on the Government to clarify the implications of the Health and Safety Reform Bill passed in Parliament today, to ensure New Zealanders aren’t stripped of the recreation opportunities enjoyed by past generations.
The Bill aims to make workplaces more accountable for the health and safety of workers and other people who are visiting workplaces.
NZRA Chief Executive Andrew Leslie said the risk was that without immediate and clear communication from Government, recreation providers may misinterpret the requirements of the Bill and stop offering key community programmes and infrastructure out of fear of perceived risks.
“There’s clearly a lot of confusion about this Bill. We’ve seen questions raised from across our membership and there have been some speculative media articles about the potential for people to stop providing recreation opportunities or outdoor experiences because they fear increased penalties if they get it wrong.”
Recent media coverage suggesting some schools would remove their playgrounds for fear of increased liability if students were injured was a prime example, Mr Leslie said.
Schools are one of the many recreation settings where work also takes place, and the Bill, like its predecessor, places an obligation on those with responsibility for ‘workplaces’ to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, they are safe.
“Our understanding is that, while the penalties and responsibilities for failing to provide a safe workplace will differ under this Bill, changes in the day to day requirements for recreation providers will be less dramatic. It’s important the Government clearly communicates this. There’s certainly no need for schools to remove playgrounds or for recreation centres to stop providing the great programmes they provide for communities.
“We need a bit of common sense from all parties. Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse needs to clearly state that under the new reform bill, it will still be ok for kids to climb trees in school and play the same sports at lunchtime that they have been playing for decades.
“Recreation creates great New Zealanders. It offers a swathe of benefits, educationally, for mental and physical health, tourism and better connected communities. It would be an absolute travesty if organisations that enable recreation for Kiwis shy away from provision because of misplaced fears about what this Bill means for them.”