With increased levels of remote working, WorkSafe has reminded businesses that a“workplace” for the purposes of the Health and Safety at Work Act is anywhere that work is carried out, including at home. As this trend is set to continue, worker engagement and representation duties are a key way of understanding the needs of workers to ensure that the associated risks are effectively managed.
Businesses have also had to think carefully about their culture and policies relating to sickness – usually it would be common for workers to attend work with minor cold symptoms, but this may now be a material health and safety risk. We have also seen many businesses grapple with protecting workers who are in the high-risk category, or have vulnerable people in their household, or workers who simply refuse to attend work due to fear of exposure.
New Zealand’s progress towards improving overall workplace health and safety is stalling, with WorkSafe reporting that only around one in five workplaces has a “mature” health and safety culture. This suggests the majority of businesses still have a legal compliance “check box” mentality, and there is a lot of work to be done to motivate change.
Since its creation at the end of 2013, WorkSafe has had four key system targets designed to measure its performance.
Reviewing New Zealand’s health and safety statistics, two are particularly notable: 
The target of zero catastrophic events was not met in 2019/20 because of the Whakaari eruption in which 22 people died
WorkSafe has said that it will be developing its approach to catastrophic harm prevention and progressing its review of the Adventure Activity Regulations.
The target of a 25% decrease in work-related fatalities by 2020 was met four years ago
We first achieved this target in 2016 and although it was an important milestone, the rate of decline has since stalled.
Two other measures reflect that our health and safety performance remains moderately poor:
- our rate of serious injury has risen in the past two years; and
- our ‘week away from work’ injuries have stayed the same, or risen, since 2011.
In 2020/2021, WorkSafe will be working with MBIE to refresh its system targets.