Stephanie Grieve, a health and safety specialist lawyer with Duncan Cotterill, said the release of the Royal Commission findings on the Pike River tragedy had important implications for companies involved in the Christchurch rebuild.
The Royal Commission’s report has recommended changes that would require directors to positively ensure their company has an effective health and safety management system in place.
Although the focus of the RCI’s enquiry was on health and safety in the context of coal mining, the Commission has expressly acknowledged that this recommendation is much broader and is intended to raise this issue across all sectors.
The report comes at the same time as an Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety is considering similar proposals to increase accountability of companies, their boards and senior managers.
Grieve said that changes to increase compliance obligations were almost inevitable. These are likely to require directors to have a much more hands-on role in implementing health and safety, especially in larger companies. This would bring New Zealand into line with corporate governance requirements in other countries.
The move towards greater responsibility will inevitably add to the duties and risks faced by directors, already under fire for their role in the downfall of some finance companies.
The Christchurch rebuild is already a major focus for the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (formerly Department of Labour) and those involved will undoubtedly be affected by any regulatory change in the area of health and safety.