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WTR

Busting a Few Health and Safety Myths

11 November 2015

Busting a Few Health and Safety Myths

Did you know…?
A report on the loopy rules and regulations frustrating New Zealanders was released last month.

The Rules Reduction Taskforce was established by Local Government Minister Paula Bennett in October 2014 to engage with the public and capture their concerns about frustrating, ineffective rules. 
New Zealanders are fed up wasting time and money trying to work with loopy rules. We were tasked with identifying rules and regulations which are not fit-for-purpose and which impose unnecessary bureaucratic burdens on property owners and businesses. 
Everyone we heard from has had tales to tell of loopy rules - requirements that are out of date, inconsistent, petty, inefficient, pointless or onerous. These are the things that really annoy people, whether they run a business or own their own home.

We did hear of rules that protect people, the environment, infrastructure and our heritage but which still enable individuals, businesses and our economy to prosper and grow. But we are struck by the number of instances where the good intentions of the rule-makers are somehow lost in the translation to the real world. It was a surprise to us to find out that a number of the loopy rules are in fact just myths. They are misinterpretations and misunderstandings that have been repeated so often that they have taken on the status of facts.


Busting a few myths.

Myth: Lolly scrambles are banned because they're unsafe for kids.

  • Reality: Not true. There are no Government health and safety rules against lolly scrambles at things like Santa Parades. There has been some concern that children could be injured running in front of floats, and while this is a valid concern, the most important thing is for event organisers, parents and caregivers to use common sense to keep kids safe.

Myth: It's illegal to use step-ladders and saw horses.

Reality: There are no Government rules banning their use. There are also no rules requiring harnesses or scaffolding to complete work at small heights. What is absolutely important is that people are careful when they use step-ladders or saw horses.

However, The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 requires that they be used in the way the manufacturer intended them and that employers take steps to eliminate the risk of a person falling and injuring themselves.

Myth: People living in retirement villages can't serve alcohol to their friends.

  • Reality: It is fine for residents in retirement villages to have other residents around to their rooms for a drink.

Myth: Farmers are liable if a visitor to their property trips over a tree root.

  • Reality: Not true. Farmers only have a duty to warn visitors about out-of-the-ordinary work-related hazards on the farm, and to ensure that no action or inaction of any employee harms another person.

Myth: Kiwis can no longer complete DIY work on their own properties.

  • Reality: Home owners can continue to do most DIY work as has always been the case.


Top Ten Fixes
Fixing individual rules that don't make sense is the main priority, and we have identified many opportunities for central and local government to consider. 

  1. Make it easier to get building consents.
  2. Get serious about lifting the skills of building sector.
  3. Make it easier to get resource consents.
  4. Reduce the cost of consenting fees.
  5. Sort out what "work safety" means and how to do it.
    • Define what is meant by "all practicable steps" in the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1991 and any replacement term in the Health and Safety Reform Bill.
    • WorkSafe should do more about myth-busting, correcting misunderstandings and providing consistent information.
    • Develop clear and accessible guidelines and codes of practice once the Health and Safety Reform Bill becomes law, working with all other agencies involved.
  6. Make it clear what the rules are.
    • Define what is meant by "as nearly as is reasonably practicable" in the Building Act 2004.
    • Require the Ministry for the Environment to work more closely with the other agencies to provide more timely and comprehensive guidance when developing and issuing national directives.
    • Make government agencies accept their responsibility to correct misunderstandings about their policies and regulations, particularly in the building and resource management areas, and as noted in health and safety.
  7. Establish a new customer focus the public sector.
  8. Departments should introduce a stakeholder engagement approach to developing local government policies and regulations.
  9. Reform the Local Government Act 1974 and the Reserves Act 1977.
  10. And, most importantly:
    • Stop making loopy rules!