5 things to know if you're a 'Worker'

Today we are talking about the term 'Workers' and what that means in the new Health & Safety Law, coming into effect on the 4th April 2016.

So what are workers, what do they have to do, and what could happen if a worker does something stupid? Over to Zane and Alice.

5 things to know if you're a 'Worker'

We have 5 things to help describe what a worker is and what responsibilities they may have.

1. What is a Worker?

Someone who does the work in a business like an: employee; sub-contractor; apprentice; trainee; work-experience; team member; anyone else who does work in a business or organisation or undertaking(Term from the law).

2. Who do they work for?

As we have just said, they do work for businesses, organisations or undertakings.  The law puts it like this. A Worker is somebody who does work for a PCBU (Person conducting a business or undertaking.)

3. What does it mean for me?

Why the law has the term 'Worker' and puts people in different categories (PCBU, Officer, Worker, Other Persons) all comes down to the duties that each category has. The duties or responsibilities for a Worker can be summed up in 4 points. A Worker must:

  • take reasonable care of their own Health and Safety
  • not do stupid or unsafe things which can put others' safety at risk
  • listen to their boss and follow reasonable safe instructions
  • co-operate with any safety policy or procedure that has been set up or created in the workplace and that you have been told about.

Basically don't be an #UnsafeDickhead, listen to your boss, look after your own safety and look out for others, if they are doing something that could hurt them or you, tell them not to and do it safely instead.

4. What if I don't be a safe worker?

If you are intentionally unsafe and don't pay any attention to the safety policy or procedures and something goes wrong then you as a Worker could be up for some fines. There a 3 levels of fines/penalties:

  • Reckless: no more than $300,000 and/or no more than 5 years in prison
  • Serious: no more than $150,000
  • Offensive: no more than $50,000

As you can see that's some quite serious fines but rather than describe what each level is, let's forget about the fines and just focus on being safe and following the rules in place at your work. The rules are there for a good reason, so you and your work mates don't get hurt.

5. What are my rights as a worker?

You have the right to refuse or stop doing unsafe work. So if your boss asks you to do something that you know involves a really dodgy piece of gear, or a big risk that could hurt you or someone else, then you can tell your boss no. Then work with you boss to get that piece of gear or risk dealt with so that the unsafe work becomes safe.

What if I do dangerous work, can I refuse to do it but still get paid?

If you do dangerous work, like being an electrician dealing with live power or a firefighter running into burning buildings, or some other really risky job then no you can't refuse to do the work because the risks are part of the job. However you do have the right to be trained in how to deal with those risks safely, and have the correct gear to keep you safe. If you have to do the job without that gear or the right training then you can refuse to do it until you get the training and correct gear.


So there you have it, 5 things to know if you're a 'Worker' or if you have 'Workers' in your business. That's it for another Workshop Wednesday, stay safe and we will see you next week.

Let us know what you think below in the comments or send an email to questions@peoplesafe.co.nz

If you have the time and want to read the full legislation, you can find it here:
Health and Safety at Work Act 2015