Health and Safety Reform: Increased Regulation of Plant and Structures on the Horizon

The Government has announced that it intends to release draft plant and structures regulations in early 2022, with new regulations expected to be in place later next year.

Many industries rely on plant and structures to work.  Whether it is a forklift in a factory or scaffolding on a construction site, these tools of the trade are essential to productivity and can often offer better health and safety outcomes when used appropriately.

Unfortunately, plant and structures are also involved in most workplace injuries and fatalities.  Between 2008 and 2019, an average of 54 people a year died from injuries involving plant (machines, vehicles, equipment) and structures (scaffolding and excavations). These averages are approximately twice that of Australia and four times that of the UK.  

In response to this poor record, the Government has proposed reform of what it calls, “outdated, complex and incomplete” health and safety requirements.

Detail is currently light, however, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has signalled that the proposed regulations will build upon the existing Prescribed Risk Management Process and introduce “layered controls” according to the associated risk: where there is higher risk, there will be additional controls that apply to specific plant or structures with distinct risks.

These controls will include design registers, extra duties on designers, manufacturers suppliers, and importers, and a register of individual high-risk plant items (such as cranes).

As it stands, key changes are likely to include:

  • A prescribed process for determining appropriate guarding of plant and steps to be taken to avoid unsafe use and alterations.
  • Measures to avoid mobile plant collision, overturning and being thrown off.
  • Upstream businesses, including designers, suppliers, importers and manufacturers, will be required to take steps to make sure that the plant they develop or supply is safer and reduces harm to workers. Conversely, businesses requesting or ordering new designs of plant will be required to provide designers with any information about reasonably foreseeable risks and hazards in the workplace where the plant or structure will be used.
  • Suppliers and operators of high-risk plant will be required to ensure that the plant is of a registered design, verified and recorded on central register operated by WorkSafe.
  • Additional fall prevention and fall arrest requirements in the construction industry.
  • Licensing and qualifications for the scaffolding construction and inspection will be modernised to reflect industry practice.
  • The prescribed Risk Management Process will be applied to all excavation work, regardless of depth. Existing controls for shoring and fencing of excavation of over 1.5m will be retained and revised, as well as requirements to notifying WorkSafe.  Additional competency requirements for determining where shoring is required will be reviewed and a PCBU with management or control of the worksite will be required to check for underground services to address the risk of harm and economic destruction for line strikes.
  • The possibility of new offences/infringements and penalties where required.

If you have any questions about health and safety in the construction sector contact the Health and Safety Team or your usual contact at Hesketh Henry.  Otherwise, we will be monitoring the developments and provide further detail on the proposed regulations when they are released in early 2022.



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