Safety reform bill a 'backward step' – Opposition

  • 24/07/2015

Proposed health and safety laws reported back to parliament by a select committee "strike the right balance," the government says.

But opposition parties say the Health and Safety Reform Bill has been gutted and the laws are worse than the ones they'll replace.

The reforms, promised in the aftermath of the Pike River mine disaster, are the biggest shake-up of New Zealand's workplace health and safety laws in 20 years.

The bill passed its first reading in parliament and was sent to a select committee, which was given a six-month extension to consider it because small businesses and farmers were concerned about the impact of some measures.

The bill was reported back on Friday, and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse says it's "in great shape".

"It's important to strike the right balance between safe workplaces for workers and unnecessary red tape on businesses and I'm confident we have landed in the right space," he said.

"The amended bill takes a risk-based approach to focus effort on what a business needs to do, what is `reasonably practical' for it to do, and what is in its sphere of control."

Mr Woodhouse says the bill supports more effective worker participation, and will allow businesses to take a flexible approach to this in a way that suits their size and needs.

Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway says the bill is a backward step.

"National has significantly weakened it with changes based on anecdotal assertions and outright fearmongering by a small group of employers," he said.

Labour will put up amendments to the bill when it comes up for its committee stage in parliament.

The Greens say workers have been let down.

"In many ways it's worse than what it replaces," said Denise Roche.

"Cutting supposedly low-risk workplaces with less than 20 staff out of the legislation puts workers at small and medium-sized workplaces at risk."

Proposed changes to the Health and Safety Reform Bill: