HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK ACT 2015 AND THE SPECIFICATION
The new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA or HSW) comes into force 4 April 2016, replacing the old Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE).
The new HSW has more extensive requirements, responsibilities and liabilities (and penalties) that apply to certain individuals and will affect all practices and organisations from sole practitioners to large organisations. Due to the complexity and scale of impact of this new Act, this article does not attempt to deal with the whole HSW, only the small portion of it related to specifications.
If you own an organisation/practice, or manage/run an organisation/practice or project etc., it is absolutely vital that you understand more than the items covered in this article. You need to understand how the whole of the HSW Act affects you. As a starting point the links at the end of the article provide further reading on the subject.
A critical new term which is important to understand is PCBU or Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking. There is a sense that a PCBU is a person who manages or controls a work place/situation, but is not a worker (refer HSW Section 17 Meaning of PCBU, for more detail). You can be the PCBU of your organisation/practice and/or a PCBU designer of your project(s).
As the PCBU of your organisation/practice you are responsible and liable for the health and safety in your office and your staff/workers/visitors in their day to day work activities. As a PCBU designer, that is a organisation/practice which designs plant, substance or structure that are to be used or could reasonably be expected to be used as or at a workplace, you owe a duty of care under the HSW (refer section 39 of the Act). This could include the design of a residential home if it is reasonably foreseeable that the home may be used as a workplace in the future. However during the construction or alteration of the home the site is most likely a workplace situation.
Workplace involves not only construction but also inspection, cleaning, maintenance or repair of a new or existing structure, and probably for the life of that structure including any demolition.
Under the new Act PCBUs may have overlapping duties with other PCBUs, for instance with other design consultants or with the Contractor. In those cases PCBUs will need to consult, co-operate and co-ordinate activities to meet their shared responsibilities (Section 34 of the Act).
As you would expect the main Contractor (also a PCBU) will have to have a site/project Health and Safety Plan similar to before. However, under the new HSW the Contractor will have to consult and co-ordinate with sub-contractors PCBUs and other contractors PCBUs on the project.
The HSW has introduced risks to health and safety, so as well as identifying hazards on site as before the Contractor must now also assess risks and the likelihood of them happening, and implement the most effective control measures to eliminate or minimise hazards and risks that are reasonably practicable in the circumstances.
PCBU Who Designs
Section 39, part (2) of the HSW says "The designer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure that the plant, substance, or structure is designed to be without risks to the health and safety of persons -" and then it lists a range of structure (building etc.) users from workers to visitors, including "those that construct the structure". This means the designer will have a duty to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that any designs of plant, substances or structures are without risks to the health and safety. This includes not only the project designers but also, where part of a project is designed by others, such as contractors or sub-contractors (eg. roof trusses, glazing, curtain walling etc.), the PCBU that has designed those parts also owes a duty.
Section 39, part (3) of the HSW says "The designer must carry out, or arrange the carrying out of, any calculations, analysis, testing, or examination that may be necessary for the performance of the duty imposed by subsection (2)".
Section 39, part (4) of the HSW says "The designer must give to each person who is provided with the design for the purpose of giving effect to it adequate information concerning -". This largely involves providing health and safety information about the design to those referred to in most of parts (2) and (3) above. Depending on arrangements the PCBU designer may supply the required information through the owner or direct to (or both) the "person" who gives effect to (i.e. makes it or builds it).
Australian Method of Transferring Information
The new New Zealand legislation was based on the older Australian legislation, but as yet in New Zealand there is little in the way of Regulations or Codes of Practice to provide detail on the practicalities of the HSW. It is generally expected that the New Zealand regulations and codes of practice will be developed in line with the Australian regulations and codes of practice. The Australian regulator, Safe Work Australia, has published a Code of Practice: Safe Design of Structures (refer to links) and although it outlines safe design under Australian regulations it provides a reasonable indication as to how a New Zealand PCBU designer might be expected to act.
The Australian Code of Practice: Safe Design of Structures (CoP), Section 2.5 Information Transfer, outlines the type of information and the method of transfer which they call a Safety Report. The Safety Report is provided by the PCBU designer (one for each individual PCBU designer or a coordinated document by all PCBUs, involved in the project) to the client with a copy to the Contractor.
The Australian CoP recommends that the development of a project "work health and safety file for a structure could assist the designer meet the duty to provide information to others. It could include copies of all relevant health and safety information the designer prepared and used in the design process, such as the safety report, risk register, safety data sheets, manuals and procedures for safe maintenance, dismantling or eventual demolition". From this file the Safety Report can be developed. The CoP goes on to say the "safety report applies to designs of structures that have unusual or atypical features which present hazards and risks during the construction phase that are unique to the particular design". This indicates that the Safety Report does not have to cover all eventualities, but mostly those that would not be expected for a normal construction of that type.
The CoP also recommends making some particular relevant health and safety notes on drawings, "as these will be immediately available to construction workers". Reports from Australian practices seem to indicate this can be useful.
For all Masterspec systems except Masterspec Minor Residential.
Masterspec have updated Work Sections that referenced the old Act to now refer to the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, although some of the old "transitional" Regulations etc. are still referred to. The HSW indicates transitional documents will be replaced as new documents are developed (refer HSW Act Schedule 1).
The General section 1220 PROJECT has been updated to the new HSW with the addition of clauses that cover methods of transferring designers information about health and safety. For projects with only a few minor safety matters, where a full designer Safety Report for the contractor may not be justified, a new clause DESIGN CONSTRUCTION SAFETY MATTERS has been added to allow the listing of any items in the specification. Alternatively for projects with significant or numerous safety issues and where a separate full designer Safety Report for the Contractor is justified a new clause DESIGN CONSTRUCTION SAFETY REPORT has been added to direct the Contractor to refer to the separate Safety Report. Note, regardless of what is provided to the Contractor, it is advisable to always give the client a designers Safety Report as it may contain items important to the client, but of no interest to the Contractor, i.e. maintenance etc.
The General section 1260 PROJECT MANAGEMENT has been updated to the new HSW for the Contractor's Health and Safety Plan. Also the Contractor is instructed to include "risks" in addition to hazards in the Plan, as well as now co-ordinating health and safety matters with all subcontractors, suppliers, separate contractors and others engaged on the project. The section contains a new requirement for the Contractor to assess for inclusion in their Health and Safety Plan any requirements from the PCBU designer(s) Design Construction Safety Report or from the new clause Design Construction Safety Matters (both items covered in section 1220 PROJECT).
For those using Masterspec Minor Residential 1210 PROJECT has a new clause DESIGN CONSTRUCTION SAFETY MATTERS to allow the listing of any items in the specification, as a minor project should only have minor safety matters if any. Section 1220 GENERAL REQUIREMENTS has been updated to the new HSW.
It is likely that the on-going development of related Regulations and Codes of Practice will cause further changes, Masterspec will endeavour to monitor this and keep you informed.
Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2015/0070/latest/DLM5976660.html
WorkSafe NZ http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/hswa
Safe Work Australia - Safe Design of Structures http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/698/Safe%20Design%20of%20Structures.pdf
Safe Work Australia - Safe design in practice: For designers and structures’ and FAQ http://www.safedesignaustralia.com.au/
For NZIA members - Practice Note PN 1.219 - Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 http://www.nzia.co.nz/member-services.aspx
Warning - generally Google Search brings up a lot of articles about the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, but beware, some pre-date the release of the new Act and can be misleading.