New Zealand Science Teacher

Safety

Code of Practice refresh: update

The Health and Safety at Work Act is now in force and has created much discussion in schools over the last year.

hazardThe Code

The NZASE is in the final stages of reviewing and updating the Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories.

NZASE has been listening to teachers concerns since 2007 and has lobbied for the Code of Practice to be refreshed. Consultation took place at SciCON in 2014 and it was pleasing that in 2015 an on-line survey conducted by NZASE received 196 responses from technicians and teachers. All the feedback has been considered and the refreshed document re-written taking that feedback into account.

We expect that an announcement concerning the publication of the new Code of Practice will be made at SciCON in Lower Hutt. NZASE have negotiated 15 workshops around the country to deliver the refreshed Code of Practice to the regions.

Background

Current legislation expects laboratory manages to read the most recent code of practice which is the 2007 version. The safe work practices outlined in the 2007 document still apply.

With the new Act it might be an expectation of those teachers who do not feel supported by PCBU’s and Officers that support for Health and Safety would increase as a consequence of explicit definition of responsibilities and liabilities.

Regulations development and refresh of Code of Practice

NZASE published The Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories in 2007. This code provides practical guidance on how schools should comply with the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act and the Exempt Laboratory Regulations.

Since early 2015 The New Zealand Association of Science Educators have been working closely with both Ministry of Education and MBIE to plan for the new regulations and support teachers during their implementation. Workshops are planned following publication of the refreshed Code of Practice – these will be advised via the Ministry’s school Leader’s Bulletin

The draft Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2016 were up for consultation until February 2016. The regulations are now being written by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. These are unlikely to be completed in the near future so NZASE are refreshing the Code of practice using the new Health and Safety at Work Act and draft Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2016.  When the regulations are published the Code of Practice will be reviewed and amended as necessary.

NZASE would like to thank STANZ and NZIC for their support in refreshing this document.

Responsibilities – Health and Safety

The purpose of the new Health and Safety at Work Act is to make clear everyone’s responsibilities in keeping people healthy and safe in workplaces. The Act clarifies responsibilities and accountabilities, strengthens worker participation and creates expectations for effective risk management that are proportionate to the risk.

The legislation introduces four categories of person.

PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) - despite its name, a PCBU will usually be a business or corporate entity and in the context of the school sector, the PCBU will be the Board of Trustees of a school.

Officer – an individual member of a Board of Trustees and any other person that exercises significant influence over the management of the school, eg the principal, is classed as an officer.

Worker – the definition of worker in the new legislation is wider than that of employee. Worker means an individual who carries out work for the school and includes teachers and volunteer workers.

Other persons – anybody within the school workplace and/or environment including students, parents, visitors, casual volunteers, members of the public.

An example of change in regulations

The emphasis of the legislation is not so much about changing the safe practices that are being carried out in our schools but identifying responsibility for safe practice and assigning liability if unsafe practice results in an incident causing harm.

This is exemplified if we compare and contrast a regulation derived from the previous Act and a regulation written in light of the new Health and Safety at Work Act, and may apply to the Technology area in schools.

Previously under Regulation 16 of the Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995:

16 Raised objects

Every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure, in relation to every place of work under the control of that employer, that, where any employee is under any thing that has been raised or lifted by any means to enable any work to be done, supports or other devices are so placed or used under the thing that it cannot drop or be lowered while the employee is under it.

Now under Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016:

Managing risks associated with working under raised objects

(1) A PCBU must manage, in accordance with regulations 5 to 8, risks to health and safety associated with work being done under any object that has been raised or lifted by any means.

(2) If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk referred to in subclause (1), the PCBU must minimise the risk by, so far as is reasonably practicable, providing supports or other devices to be placed or used under the raised object so that the object cannot fall or be lowered while a worker or other person is under it.

(3) A PCBU who contravenes this regulation commits an offence and is liable on conviction,—

(a) for an individual, to a fine not exceeding $10,000:
(b) for any other person, to a fine not exceeding $50,000.

In the new regulations the expectation of the safe practice does not appear to alter significantly however the management/responsibility and liability of PCBU (Board of Trustees) is clear in (1) and (3)

This is further exemplified if we compare and contrast the statement from the Hazardous Substances (Exempt Laboratories) Regulations 2001 (from which our Code of Practice is derived) and a draft regulation written in light of the new Health and Safety at Work Act which is likely to be little changed when written:

Previous regulation

Personnel requirements for laboratories
13 Laboratory manager

(1) At least 1 person must be designated as a laboratory manager for a laboratory.

(2) A laboratory manager—

(a) may be designated as the manager of all or a specified part of the laboratory; and

(b) is in charge of—

(i) the laboratory or specified part of the laboratory; and

(ii) all hazardous substances contained within the laboratory or part of the laboratory; and

(c) may nominate any other person to be in charge in his or her absence.

(3) If more than 1 person is designated as a laboratory manager under subclause (1), the terms   and conditions of the designation must—

(a) be recorded in writing; and

(b) ensure that, at any given time, only 1 person is in charge of the laboratory or part of the laboratory, and of all hazardous substances contained within the laboratory or part of the laboratory

New draft regulation

18.12 Laboratory manager

(1) The PCBU with management or control of a laboratory must ensure that at least 1 person is designated as a laboratory manager for the laboratory.

(2) A laboratory manager—

(a) may be designated as the manager of all or a specified part of the laboratory; and

(b) is in charge of—

(i) the laboratory or specified part of the laboratory; and

(ii) all hazardous substances contained within the laboratory or part of the laboratory; and

(c) may nominate another person to be in charge in his or her absence.

(3) If more than 1 person is designated as a laboratory manager under subclause (1), the PCBU with management or control of the laboratory must—

(a) ensure that the terms and conditions of the designation are recorded in writing; and

(b) ensure that, at any given time, only 1 person is in charge of the laboratory or part of the laboratory, and of all hazardous substances contained within the laboratory or part of the laboratory.

(4) A PCBU who contravenes subclause (1) or (2) commits an offence and is liable on conviction,—

(a) for an individual, to a fine not exceeding $10,000:

(b) for any other person, to a fine not exceeding $50,000.

(5) A PCBU who contravenes subclause (3) commits an offence and is liable on conviction,—

(a) for an individual, to a fine not exceeding $2,000:

(b) for any other person, to a fine not exceeding $10,000.

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