H&S Governance Requirements for SME’s

16 September 2016

The role company directors (or trustees) play in health and safety is often unknown by those in these roles. With the traditional focus being on making sure the business has policies, procedures and a health and safety manual in place, many directors are puzzled when asked what their understanding of the ‘Officers’ requirements are with regard to health and safety.  With recent changes in NZ, legislation there is a set of six key criteria which are designed to ensure those sitting around the board table know what they need to know, and what they need to do.

All directors or trustees (including the CEO or MD) must develop and maintain knowledge of the health and safety matters in the organisation they are a director of on an ongoing basis.


Health and safety is not a ‘tick the box’ exercise these days. It’s about continuous improvement by understanding where the business is at with its health and safety capability, where health and safety risks are in the business and ongoing feedback loops to understand if those risks are being effectively managed.

“Director Knowledge” (as Safe365 refer to this area as) is important because every director has due diligence requirements under the legislation which outlines they must each take reasonable steps to:

  1. To acquire, and keep up to date, knowledge of work health and safety matters; and
  2. To gain an understanding of the nature of the operations of the business or undertaking of the PCBU and generally of the hazards and risks associated with those operations; and
  3. To ensure that the PCBU has available for use, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking; and
  4. To ensure that the PCBU has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazards, and risks and for responding in a timely way to that information; and
  5. To ensure that the PCBU has, and implements, processes for complying with any duty or obligation of the PCBU under legislation; and
  6. To verify the provision and use of the resources and processes are being delivered in practice.

Directors who are deemed by authorities to have breached these requirements face personal liability including fines and prison.

So you know what you need to do…but how can you do it with the limited time and resources directors have? Our advice… keep it simple and pragmatic!

A few of the simple solutions to build director knowledge relative to the legislative requirements include:

  • Director health and safety inductions when new directors join the organisation
  • Work site visits such as hosting a board meeting at one of the operational facilities annually
  • Visibility of the organisation’s risk register and other health and safety information
  • Building health and safety into director meeting agendas as a permanent agenda item so it is always considered
  • The directors taking independent advice regarding health and safety in their organisation on an annual (or more frequent) basis
  • Director risk management training

Safe365 has a specific ‘director knowledge’ module that provides specific support to directors and trustees so that all requirements can be met and the business enhances its health and safety capability over time quickly and efficiently.

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