University of Otago Health & Safety

OSH Legislation


The University of Otago is committed to providing a safe and healthy place of work for staff, students and visitors.

This is documented as the University Health and Safety Policy Statement, and Associated Policies.

The University actively seeks to comply with the relevant legislation, codes of practice, guidelines and standards that relate to University areas of work. The health and safety management structure supports and facilitates the development of health and safety policies, defines responsibilities and ensures communication on health and safety issues.

Legislative Requirements

The main Act for the management of health and safety in the workplace is the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act). The HSE Act was amended in 2002.

See the summary of changes below.

The principle objective of the HSE Act and amendment is to provide for the prevention of harm to employees at work. It achieves this through promoting health and safety management by employers, imposing duties on employers and others, and the provision of making regulations and approved codes of practice relating to particular significant hazards.

The coverage is broad, and the HSE Act imposes duties on a wide range of working relationships in nearly all places of work. A person may have duties under more than one section of the HSE Act, and a duty may apply to more than one person at one time.

The HSE Act is performance-based legislation and varies to the previously prescriptive legislation. The HSE Act is supported by regulations, guidelines and codes of practice, which control specific health and safety issues.

There is other legislation that may impact on the health and safety in the workplace that still apply, such as the Gas Act 1992, the Building Act 1991 and the Electricity Act 1992. There may be some overlap with the HSE Act. In these situations the requirements of both will need to be complied with. Usually, by meeting the requirements of one Act, the health and safety requirements would also be met. The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO Act) places controls on hazardous substances and new organisms and applies to the University.

See the Hazard Management section of this website for further information.

Place of work

The HSE Act applies to places of work. A place of work is very broadly defined in the HSE Act as any place (not necessarily part of a building or structure) where any person is to work, is working for the time being or customarily works for gain or reward. In relation to an employee, it includes a place or part of a place under the control of the employer where an employee:

  • Comes or may come to eat, rest or get first-aid or pay,
  • Comes or may come as part of their duties, to report in or out, get instructions or deliver goods or vehicles; or
  • May or must pass through to reach a place of work.

Duties under the Act

The HSE Act requires a general duty for employers to ensure the safety of employees while at work (section 5). This contains particular duties of employers to:

  • Provide and maintain safe working environment
  • Provide and maintain facilities for the safety and health of employees at work;
  • Ensure that plant machinery and equipment in the place of work is designed, made, set up and maintained to be safe for employees
  • Ensure that systems of work do not lead to employees being exposed to hazards in or around their place of work; and
  • Develop procedures for dealing with emergencies that may arise while employees are at work.

The HSE Act also places duties on employees:

  • Not to endanger themselves or others (section 19);
  • Not to interfere with an accident scene (section 26); and/or
  • To comply with notices, sampling or other requirements of health and safety inspectors and departmental medical practitioners from OSH (sections 31, 33, 35, 37, 39 - 45).

An employee who has management or supervisory responsibilities as part of his/her job has the duties of an employee, and there may be occasions where he or she will represent the interests of the employer, such as 'being in control of the place of work'.

Other duties are also defined for self-employed, officers, directors and agents of a body corporate.


ACC introduced the Partnership Programme (PP) to encourage eligible employers to take responsibility for their workplace health and safety and injury management, including rehabilitation and claims management in respect of work related accidents. The University application was successful and was approved by ACC as a full self-cover plan employer under the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation (IPRC) Act 2001.

The University is required to complete an internal audit, and an annual audit by an independent ACC auditor. The required standards relate to workplace health and safety management, injury prevention and injury management including rehabilitation and claims administration. These standards include requirements similar to the HSE Act. The level of standard achieved reflects a different ACC premium discount. There are three levels of primary, secondary and tertiary. Currently the University is at tertiary level.

This means that the University receives and manages all work-related claims, and calculates pay entitlements and provides rehabilitation for work related injuries. The University will also pay for the portion of medical treatment costs that was previously paid by ACC.

Further details of the ACC Partnership programme at the University of Otago are available elsewhere on this website.


Summary of the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act 2002

The amendment act purpose is to address the following issues:

  • Increase the principal Act coverage to include maritime, rail, and air industries, coverage of mobile workers, provide protection to volunteers, persons on the job training/work experience and employees on loan, confirming harm can occur from work related stress, confirm that certain temporary conditions may cause a person's behaviour to be hazardous.
  • Include provisions requiring good faith co-operation between employers and employees in relation to health and safety.
  • Provide for more effective enforcement of the HSE Act
  • Prohibit persons being indemnified and from indemnifying others against the cost of fines and infringement fees for failing to comply with the HSE Act
  • Promote compliance with the International Labour Convention 155 concerning Occupational H&S and the working environment.


  1. The amendment commencement date May 5th, 2003.
  2. All practical steps definition repealed and replaced with a similar definition to define that practical steps can only be applied if the person knows or ought to reasonably know about.
  3. Application to include health and safety for aircraft and ships.
  4. Volunteers doing regular work - increase coverage for the effect of the HSE Act to apply to volunteers in the workplace. Does not apply to fundraising, sports and recreation for sports club, recreational club and an educational institution. The HSE Act covers other volunteers (not doing regular work). Volunteer assistance with activities for an educational institution outside the premises of the institution is excluded in all situations.
  5. Persons receiving on the job training or gaining work experience must be treated as an employee of the person who has agreed (treated as the employer) to provide on the job training or work experience.
  6. Loaned employees - Loaned employee must be treated as an employee of the receiving the loaned employee, who must be capable of doing the required work.
  7. Object of the Act - expanded to include new areas, specifically hazard to include stress and mental harm, hazardous behaviour, volunteers, good faith co-operation with employees, increasing enforcement options and prohibiting indemnifying against costs of fines and infringement fees.
  8. Personal protective equipment - allowance or extra salary for employees to purchase personal protective equipment, and requiring employees to provide their own personal protective equipment no longer meets the requirements for hazard minimisation (unless the employee voluntarily choose to provide own equipment). Equipment to be supplied by the employer.
  9. Information for Employees - includes health and safety representatives to have ready access to sufficient information to enable representatives to perform their functions.
  10. Section 14 repealed and replaced with employee participation requirements.
  11. New section requiring persons selling or supplying plant for use in a place of work to take all practical steps to ensure plant is designed, made, maintained and installed so that it is safe for use. This applies to the hire or leasing of plant, but not the sale of second hand plant or plant sold as is.
  12. Duties of employees expanded to include the requirement to use personal protective equipment supplied.
  13. Part 2A - Employee Participation - refer to University of Otago Employee Participation System
  14. Codes of practice - increase scope for the development of codes, Health and Safety Representative Code of Practice may be developed.
  15. Regulations expanded to include the development of regulations imposing duties on principals or self-employed persons.
  16. Recording and notification of serious harm - self-employed must maintain register of accidents, principals must record injuries or potential for harm (that the principal becomes aware of) to self-employed persons contracted to the principal, harm resulting from a self-employed person contract to the principal. Every occurrence of serious harm to self-employed persons contracted to the principal must be reported to OSH as soon as possible after a serious harm incident, and in writing within 7 days.
  17. Section 28A and 28B inserted - right of employees to refuse to perform work likely to cause serious harm. Allows an employee to refuse work on the grounds of potential serious harm. Reasonable grounds to refuse unsafe work includes a health and safety representative advise that the work can cause serious harm. If a reasonable work alternative is provided by the employer and is within the scope of the employee's employment agreement, then the employee must do that work. The employer, employee, health and safety representative must deal with each other in good faith.
  18. Enforcement by other agencies - specifies the process for enforcement of HSE Act by other agencies, such as Maritime Safety Authority.
  19. Functions of inspectors/powers of entry and inspection etc. - clarification of inspector powers further defined.
  20. New Section 46A - Trained Health and Safety Representatives may issue hazard notices. This section allows for the issuing of hazard notices by a trained H&S Representative.
  21. Fine increases - Offences likely to cause serious harm, increase from $100k to $500k and imprisonment from 1 year to 2 years. Other offences - increase from $25k to $250k.
  22. Sentencing Criteria - Section 51A, specifies aspects of sentencing criteria based on OSH policy.
  23. Enforcement action - not necessary to prove defendant intended to take or not take action that constitutes an offence. The new sections also detail the requirements for H&S Inspectors to notify of interest to take enforcement action, lay information and covers the requirements for any other person to lay information, providing OSH is not taking enforcement action. The time limit for laying information has been altered to within 6 months from when the incident/event/situation becomes known to an Inspector, or should have been known to an Inspector. Applications can be made by Inspectors to request an extension of time to lay information.
  24. Infringement notices - allows inspectors to issue infringement notices (spot fines). Infringement notices may be issued to employers, employees, self-employed, principal, contractor, and subcontractor. The Inspector may revoke infringement notices if conditions are met prior to the due date for fee payment. Fees range from $800 to $4000 at multiples of $100 for offences relating to section 7 (1) of the HSE Act (hazard identification and management), and $100 to $3000 for other offences. (Criminal record not created).
  25. Insurance against fines unlawful and of no action - removes the ability to indemnify against fines under the HSE Act. Able to indemnify against costs.
  26. Consequential Amendments required for the Employee Relations Act 2000 regarding the Health and Safety Representative role. Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) amended by inserting the definition of the term place of work to be consistent with the HSE Act. Maritime Transport Act 1994 amended to includes definitions of all practical steps, and significant hazard.