Health and Safety at Work Act 2015: Plant, structures, and hazardous work

The Government has announced changes to the regulations that sit under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

About the changes

The plant, structures, and hazardous work draft regulations are a package of reforms aimed at reducing work-related harm in New Zealand. The Government agreed to policy reforms in May 2021 following public consultation in 2019 on options for effectively managing risks to work involving plant, structures, and hazardous work at height and on excavations. These changes will provide more clarity and certainty for businesses, and better health and safety for workers.

This isn’t about creating cumbersome new requirements; it’s about ensuring better regulations to keep workers safe. In the last decade, an average of 54 people died at work each year from injuries involving plant (such as workplace machinery, vehicles and equipment) and structures (such as scaffolding and excavations).

The existing regulations are outdated and full of gaps. They are being modernised to ensure they are clear, effective, proportionate, and durable. By updating the regulations, businesses will be supported to better manage the risks in their workplaces and reduce work-related harm and fatalities.

The improved regulations will bring New Zealand up to international health and safety standards. New Zealand’s work-related injury fatality rate is comparatively high, approximately twice that of Australia and 4 times the rate of the United Kingdom.

The improvements include:

  • Appropriate guarding for dangerous workplace machinery.
  • Mobile plant, such as quad bikes and side-by-side vehicles, will need to have a suitable combination of devices to protect the operator, such as roll-over and crush protection, helmets, and seatbelts as appropriate.
  • High-risk plant such as cranes and boilers will continue to be regularly inspected but will also need to be registered with WorkSafe New Zealand.
  • More types of plant, such as steep-slope forestry equipment, will undergo design checks and be required to be regularly inspected to ensure they’re in a safe condition.
  • Managing risks across the supply chain by clarifying existing requirements of designers, manufacturers, importers, and suppliers of plant.
  • Clearer and stronger rules for working at heights, with the right level of protection based on the level of risk involved.
  • Clearer requirements for managing the risks of excavation work, including a “check before you dig” requirement for underground services.
  • Offences for breaching the regulations that are proportionate to the risk of harm.

This is part of the regulatory reform programme to continue implementing the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

Background information about the reform programme and additional documents

Next steps

Consultation on the draft regulations has not been able to occur earlier in 2023 as previously planned. Events in the first half of 2023, including the response to the North Island weather events and recovery, have meant that the timeline for Ministerial consideration of the exposure draft of the regulations, and therefore the consultation, have been delayed until after the election.

This is a highly complex area, and will require a detailed and nuanced discussion with businesses and workers to get the drafting right. We want to make sure that businesses and workers have enough time to engage properly with the draft regulations, and are able to provide feedback in a way that works for them.

We appreciate your continued support, interest and dedication to health and safety in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We will update you on next steps for the release of consultation materials when we have a timeline confirmed.

You can join our mailing list to register your interest in receiving a draft of the regulations when they are published.

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July 2019 plant and structures consultation process

In July 2019, the Government released a discussion paper that sought feedback on how to improve protections for people working with plant, structures, and hazardous work.

The discussion paper covered:

  • Plant
  • Mobile plant
  • Design, manufacture, supply, import and installation of plant or structures
  • High-risk plant
  • Working at heights and scaffolding
  • Excavation work

Submissions closed on 4 October 2019 and informed the Government’s approval of policy decisions in May 2021.

Read more about the 2019 consultation and additional documents

Background documents

Proactive release of other reference documents

Last updated: 14 September 2023