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Noticing that a WorkSafe inspector is visiting your business can sometimes cause a lot of fear and nerves. However, there is nothing to worry about so long as you comply with your health and safety obligations. The vast majority of WorkSafe inspections do not result in any prosecutions. Instead, you might benefit from the inspection by getting some feedback on your health and safety practices and policies.

This article sets out three tips for managing WorkSafe NZ inspections, including:

  • remembering that most inspections are routine;
  • getting documentation in order; and 
  • how to respond if the inspector does find an issue.

Inspections Are Routine 

Most businesses in New Zealand may not have had an inspection from WorkSafe and may not understand the process or implications of an inspection. However, inspections from WorkSafe are nothing to worry about. The inspections aim to be constructive and helpful. Likewise, the inspector is not looking for a reason to level penalties at your business or unduly cause any issues. As a result, the vast majority of WorkSafe inspections result in no prosecutions. 

A great thing about WorkSafe inspections is that an independent expert will look at your business’ practices, plans and policies for health and safety. While this might be intimidating, it is a great opportunity to get an external perspective and constructive feedback. In addition, WorkSafe inspectors are highly experienced and subject matter experts. Therefore, it can be conducive to ask questions about your business’ health and safety.

Suppose your health and safety practices are not meeting your obligations as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). In that case, an inspector may indeed bring up these deficiencies during an inspection. However, it is crucial to ensure you are getting these practices right in any case, given your legal obligations to ensure the health and safety of your workers.

Get Your Business’ Documentation in Order

An inspector will likely ask to see your business’ practices and policies in terms of health and safety. Your documentation around health and safety is essential and a good point of evidence towards an effective health and safety approach at your business generally. The nature of this documentation can be wide-reaching depending on the specific characteristics of your business. For example, you may need to show inspection logs or emergency plans and processes. 

You should already have good health and safety policies and processes active in your business in any case. A WorkSafe inspection can be an excellent reminder to ensure that your processes, including record-keeping and other documentation, is up to date. Documentation can be forgotten or passed over when work is busy. However, ensure that you or someone else in your business keeps these records up to date. You should also make sure that they are accessible and can be retrieved promptly when an inspection from WorkSafe is imminent. This is because it is likely that an inspector will ask to see any relevant documentation.

Responding if an Inspector Finds an Issue

A WorkSafe inspector may find an issue of some sort at your business during their inspection. If this happens, there is no need to panic. The inspector will come to discuss the issue with you and how to improve the situation. Likewise, an inspector may also give you an improvement notice. This document sets out what will need to change and the timeframe you need to make the changes.

Sometimes, if the inspector has serious concerns, they will issue a prohibition notice. This notice tells your business to stop something, such as using an unsafe piece of machinery. You should comply with the inspector’s instructions as soon as possible and let WorkSafe know that you have addressed their issues. 

Key Takeaways

There is no need to worry if a WorkSafe inspector is visiting your business. Inspections are extremely routine in New Zealand and very rarely result in prosecutions. Instead, the WorkSafe inspector will assist your business if there are any gaps or issues in your health and safety approach. Likewise, remember that inspections can be a great source of constructive feedback. Having records and documentation up to date is also important to demonstrate your business’ health and safety record. If an inspector finds an issue, they will work with you to address any consequential health and safety risks.

If you need help with WorkSafe inspections, our experienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

If WorkSafe is visiting me, are they likely to prosecute my business?

No, unless you are clearly not meeting your health and safety obligations. The vast majority of WorkSafe inspections do not result in prosecutions.

What is an improvement notice?

WorkSafe inspectors can issue improvement notices. This document will instruct your business to address a particular health and safety issue, and give a timeframe for your business to resolve the issue. 

What is a prohibition notice?

WorkSafe inspectors can also issue prohibition notices. This notice tells your business to immediately stop something, such as using an unsafe piece of machinery.

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