An exposure draft process is currently taking place in New Zealand as the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (Hīkina Whakatutki) works with WorkSafe New Zealand (Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa) towards new Health and Safety Regulations and Guidelines. In particular focus are potential Major Hazard Facilities (MHFs): workplaces that have significant inherent hazards, where the consequences of failure, be they human, environmental or economic, can be catastrophic.

The Health and Safety Reform Bill has been passed by the New Zealand Parliament and will come into effect on 4th April 2016. The new law will be called the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. A series of regulations (currently being finalised and scheduled for release before the end of 2015) to support the new Act will include:

  • Major Hazard Facilities,
  • Mining Operations and Quarrying Operations,
  • Petroleum Exploration and Extraction,
  • General risk and workplace management,
  • Asbestos, and
  • Engagement, worker participation and representation.

At this stage, it is understood that the formal Guidance will start to be available in 2016, but companies are already being proactively contacted by WorkSafe New Zealand with general information on the legislation, to help people prepare.

WorkSafe New Zealand has stated that the “new health and safety law is based on Australia's. [Australia has] seen a 16 per cent reduction in work-related deaths since 2012 and just reported the lowest number of work related deaths in 11 years.” (1)

AMOG's System/Process Safety Engineers have been working closely with both State and Federal Governments in Australia for a number of years, when it comes to MHFs. The company is on the Comcare Panel (provision of specialist technical services) and has a number of Approved Assessors for MHFs, and has recently undertaken MHF licensing research for WorkCover NSW (now WorkSafe NSW). In addition, through working with clients such as BHP Billiton, Thales, Onesteel, Leighton Contracting, the Australian Department of Defence, Borden Chemicals, Ramu Nico, Burrup Fertilisers Pty Ltd, the Dampier Port Authority, and Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd, AMOG has garnered significant experience in regulatory compliance, safety management systems, safety control performance indicators and Safety Cases for MHFs.

AMOG's Chris Van Berendonck (Head of System Safety Engineering at AMOG) believes that one of the most challenging aspects of the changes for NZ potential MHFs, is understanding the individual company's regulatory burden; knowing exactly what is required and what resources are needed to ensure MHF operators not just comply in 2016, but can sustain this regulatory compliance. There is no doubt that system (or process) safety training could help some organisations up-skill staff; HSE/EHS/WHS managers and plant/asset/compliance managers alike.

While all MHFs will need to comply with the comprehensive 'Duties of Operators' in the Regulations, the difference between an “upper tier” and a “lower tier” MHF classification can be the difference between implementing and providing the Regulator (in this case, WorkSafe's High Hazards Unit (HHU) Major Hazard Facilities Inspectorate) with a Safety Case versus less substantive information (such as a Seveso-style Major Accident Prevention Plan, noting that this is not yet formalised for NZ). This may not sound like much, until you consider that developing a Safety Case for a MHF can be up to a two year process.

Until the MHF Regulations have been finalised and issued, it is difficult to say how each potential MHF site may be classified. What we cannot afford to lose sight of, is that, as challenging as the implementation of this legislation may be, there is nothing more important than ensuring the safety of employees and communities.

If you would like more information, please contact AMOG Consulting. AMOG's Chris van Berendonck and Cherie Holland will be in New Zealand in the coming weeks and available to meet with any organisations seeking information or assistance with MHF Scoping Studies or Safety Cases.

(1) “Did you know?” Accessed 6/11/2015