Review of the key characteristics that determine the efficacy of OHS instruments: Report to the Minister of Labour
Lessons and Conclusions
New Zealand has implemented an OHS regulatory regime, following the model recommended by the British Robens report of 1972, which is ‘performance-based’ or ‘goal-setting’. The general duty provisions that form the core of performance-based legislation are meant to be supported by regulations, approved codes of practice and guidance material prepared by regulatory authorities.
In New Zealand, the OHS regulatory model has been implemented without:
- a continued commitment to provide workplaces with current approved codes of practice and guidance material designed to encourage and facilitate compliance and support best practice
- a framework for the development and assessment of the efficacy of the limited range of material produced.
In New Zealand, codes of practice are developed relatively rarely, notwithstanding the perceived need for such instruments. In New Zealand, of the 29 approved codes of practice listed at the Department of Labour’s website, only four were issued in the last five years, and 17 are more than ten years old.
Consequently, the codes that are available are sometimes inconsistent with current industry practice. The Department of Labour has no formal system for prioritising the review of approved codes of practice.[v] Many codes of practice contain references to outdated standards, legislation and definitions. Sixteen years after the introduction of the HSE Act, stakeholders such as employers, unions and OHS practitioners remain concerned about a lack of support and guidance for workplaces from government agencies.
Workplaces in New Zealand face many of the same occupational health and safety risks as workplaces in Australia and England. This suggests that, in principle, approaches such as COSHH essentials for controlling health risks from chemicals could be adopted in New Zealand. Stakeholder feedback suggested that lead agencies display a reluctance to adopt overseas guidance material despite the absence of material produced by lead agencies in New Zealand.
End users who apply codes of practice or guidance material use them as a resource for developing in-house policies, procedures, practices or systems of work. They are used to:
- identify hazards and determine opportunities for improvement
- develop training materials
- determine workplace amenities and facilities.
Regulatory agencies rely on codes of practice and guidance material in their interactions with workplaces, both for compliance and enforcement.
To improve the efficacy of codes of practice and other guidance material, they must:
- be in plain language so they are easy to read for end users
- provide clear and concise information (not discursive)
- provide practical ‘how to’ advice and solutions
- include clear simple drawings, diagrams, photos or other illustrations to support advice/solutions provided, where appropriate
- incorporate checklists and tools for use in implementation
- be regularly updated to reflect the current body of knowledge
- include references to other resources and contacts
- be provided both in print and on websites
- be regularly evaluated for effectiveness.
All businesses, but particularly small businesses,[vi] need additional assistance to implement and comply with occupational health and safety legislation. Rather than lowering the required standard of OHS in small businesses, additional resources must be provided.
Codes of practice and other guidance material must be developed in response to clearly identified risks and priorities for both occupational injury and occupational disease, which, in turn, requires accurate and timely information on occupational disease and injury and current workplace exposures.