Proposal 1: Implement new health and safety assessment requirements

What is the proposed change?

It is proposed that ACC cease auditing each AE’s health and safety performance, and instead that third party tools be used for this assessment. After evaluating all the available health and safety systems in market, the following 2 products were selected to allow AEs to choose from:

  • Becoming certified under 'AS/NZS ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems (ISO 45001)'; or
  • implementing WorkSafe’s SafePlus onsite assessment and advisory service (developed by MBIE, ACC and WorkSafe)

Implementing either product (and for ISO45001 maintaining certification, or for SafePlus maintaining ‘performing’ or better) will be a requirement to remain in AEP. In future, ACC may introduce additional assessment tools if appropriate.

Given ACC is removing itself from the health and safety assessment process, it is also proposed that ACC’s partial subsidy of assessor fees be removed. AEs are expected to take full responsibility for selecting and implementing a health and safety solution in their workplace, including the financial responsibility.

AS/NZS ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems (ISO 45001)

ISO 45001 is an internationally accepted system guiding organisations on how best to manage their health and safety.

ISO 45001 is designed to be integrated into an organisation’s existing health and safety process and follows the same high-level structure as other ISO management system standards.

ISO 45001 requires internal (organisational) and external (customers, suppliers, certification, and surveillance) audits to gain certification. Further detail on ISO 45001 can be found at the link below.

 ISO 45001:2018(en) Occupational health and safety management systems — Requirements with guidance for use(external link) — ISO Standards Online Browsing Platform


SafePlus provides government-endorsed guidance on what ‘good’ health and safety practices and performance look like in New Zealand. SafePlus is a tool based on a conceptual framework that supports organisations through discussion to seek health and safety outcomes well above minimum legal requirements.

The SafePlus intervention enables an organisation to qualitatively measure, through a ‘deep dive’ process of conversations and practical observations, their current health and safety practices, and underlying work culture. It provides a platform for continuous improvement.

After the SafePlus intervention, organisations have a report about their risk management maturity, based on a selection of their critical risks.

SafePlus focusses health and safety performance improvement on three key areas: health and safety leadership, worker engagement and risk management.

Further information on SafePlus(external link) — Worksafe

Why is the change proposed?

Improving the health and safety performance of AEs is the most effective way to influence workplace health and safety outcomes. Despite the resources provided by levy reductions, claim rates for AEs (a key indicator of health and safety performance) are similar to organisations not in AEP.

Currently, ACC audits employers using the AS/NZS4801 2001 audit tool, developed by ACC, to determine whether an AE has sufficient health and safety systems in place. An external auditor (who is approved by ACC) makes a recommendation on an AE’s alignment with ACC’s audit standards. ACC partially subsidises these audits.

The current audits are focussed on compliance, with performance indicators having a ‘lag time’ between an issue being identified and organisations fixing it. The two new proposed health and safety systems should encourage a more proactive approach.

Expert reviews have indicated that strengthening worker engagement, participation and representation (WEPR) has positive outcomes for everyone – it reduces the incidence of injuries for workers and reduces claims cost for ACC and AEs. These findings informed the selection of the 2 independent, external health and safety tools for AEP.

Worker engagement, participation and representation — Literature review 2018 [PDF 5.05MB](external link)

Utilising external health and safety tools, as part of ACC’s AE monitoring programme, encourages an adaptive approach to health and safety, which aligns with the industry’s best practices. These audits/assessments will provide assurance that AEs are implementing a comprehensive and effective health and safety programme.

As AE’s make up some of New Zealand’s largest and most influential firms, improved health and safety performance and practices has the potential to have an outsize influence on system-level health and safety outcomes. Improved practices from AE’s can filter through relevant industries and supply chains, sparking a shift in work health and safety culture in New Zealand.

What options were considered?

The options that were considered in developing this proposal, in addition to the option chosen, were keeping the status quo and improving ACC’s current health and safety audits. How these options were weighed up is outlined below.

Option 1: status quo

Retaining the status quo would not address the key issues raised by AEs and worker representatives about ACC’s health and safety assessments. These issues were:

  • AEs and TPAs want a better health and safety audit process.
  • Workers feel inadequately represented in health and safety audits.

Option 2: improve ACC’s current health and safety audits

This option would work towards addressing the issues raised by AEs and Workers. However, ACC is not an expert at health and safety assessments. It would be more efficient to allow AEs to choose from a number of assessment tools which are representative of industry best-practice and place appropriate emphasis on the worker’s experience of health and safety in the workplace.

Option 3: implement external health and safety assessments

This is the favoured option because it would address all of the issues with ACC’s internal audits mentioned above, while also ensuring that the standards for assessment are reflective of industry best practice.

After doing an analysis of all the available external assessments in the market, ACC found two suitable products: ISO 45001 and SafePlus. These are well established and may already be implemented by some AEs as part of their management systems

Other assessments did not sufficiently focus on broader health and safety, which is a requirement under the AC Act. They instead focussed on risk and environmental management.

How will it work?

For AEs who choose to implement ISO 45001, it is proposed that they will:

  • obtain ISO certification by engaging with an external ISO certified auditor
  • maintain ISO certification through annual surveillance audits
  • re-obtain ISO certification every three years (this is the usual recertification period for ISO standards).

Where an audit reveals an AE is underperforming, ACC would expect this to be resolved to ACC’s satisfaction. Continued underperformance would put an AE’s accreditation at risk.

For AEs who choose to implement SafePlus, it is proposed that they will:

  • implement SafePlus using the onsite assessment and advisory service
  • obtain an assessment report by an accredited SafePlus assessor confirming their health and safety performance is at ‘performing’ or ‘leading’ level
  • repeat this assessment by an accredited SafePlus assessor every two years

If an assessment report states an AE is performing only at the ‘developing’ level, the improvements suggested by the assessor will be expected to be implemented within 6 months. ACC will then request an out-of-cycle assessment to check for positive implementation results able to be assessed as ‘performing’ or ‘leading’. These out-of-cycle assessments would be paid for by the AE.

Their selected audit/assessment professional must be registered on the HASANZ (Health and Safety Association of NZ) register as either a certified auditor of ISO 45001 and/or accredited SafePlus assessor.

New entrants into AEP

To enter the programme, prospective AEs must implement one of the two selected health and safety management tools. This means being ISO 45001 certified or having a recent SafePlus assessment report indicating the organisations’ health and safety systems are considered to be at the ‘performing’ level or above.

Focus group interviews

Currently in conjunction with its audit, ACC organises at least two ‘focus groups’ interviews with AEs each year – one with management and one with workers. The focus groups provide an opportunity to hear how health and safety is being run at an AE’s workplace. These meetings are separated to ensure that everyone is able to speak freely and frankly about their experiences at work.

It is proposed to retain these focus groups because the worker experience of their workplace’s health and safety management systems is considered to be a key indicator of effectiveness.

However, it is proposed to extend the remit of the focus groups to include the experience of injured employees. This will require ACC to develop a new series of outcomes-based questions to attempt to capture the experience of injured workers.

To get a good, independent, view of the worker experience it is important that information gathering is completed by an appropriate external person. To get this independence and reduce the inconvenience of focus group interviews, it is proposed that the interviews be combined with the annual assessment of an AE’s Claims and Injury Management. This assessment is proposed to be conducted by an independent assessor as outlined in Proposal 2.

Proposal 2: Strengthen the assessment of Claims and Injury Management

What will this mean for Accredited Employers?

AEs will be responsible for gaining and maintaining the health and safety requirements.

The AE will be responsible for:

  • The implementation of one of the selected health and safety management tools, ISO 45001 or SafePlus, and gaining an initial certification or satisfactory assessment report.
  • Bearing the full costs of accreditation, implementation and auditing of the chosen health and safety tools.
  • Arranging the required periodic audits/assessments. The selected audit/assessment professional must be registered on the HASANZ (Health and Safety Association of NZ) register as either a certified auditor of ISO 45001 and/or accredited SafePlus assessor.
  • Implementing any recommendations that an assessment recommends
  • Providing ACC with a copy of the periodic assessment/audit reports, including any action plans.

What will this mean for workers?

We anticipate that utilising these health and safety tools will positively impact workers’ health and safety. Both external health and safety tools (ISO 45001 and SafePlus), require the involvement of workers in the health and safety management system.

Tell us what you think

General feedback

  1. Do you support the proposed new health and safety requirements, or would you prefer one of the other options? Why/why not?
  2. What benefits and/or risks do you see if ACC adopts external health and safety management assessments? Why? 
  3. What impacts do you expect when an AE adopts one of the proposed tools?
  4. How would these changes impact on your participation in the Programme?
  5. If you don’t support any of the options, what alternatives do you propose?

Worker engagement feedback

  1. Do you think the proposed changes will improve worker engagement in health and safety? Why/why not?
  2. Do you think the proposed changes will improve worker outcomes? Why/why not?