8 Jun 2016

Firms told not to be panicked into hiring consultants

5:19 pm on 8 June 2016

Small and medium-sized businesses are being urged to take advantage of free advice and not be panicked into hiring consultants to help them address new health and safety laws.

Health and safety rules

Photo: 123RF

The new workplace safety rules came into effect in April and have imposed specific responsibilities on company directors and executives.

But a survey by insurer International SOS has shown a wide level of ignorance about the new rules, and country manager Bryony Hardy said that had prompted them to join with Business New Zealand and law firm MinterEllison to help fill the gap through free seminars and information.

"We found 42 percent of these organisations reported that they needed support to understand their legal obligations and duty of care and more than a third said complying ... was their biggest challenge."

But consultants have moved to play up the dangers to companies and executives and are offering expensive services to vulnerable small and medium-sized businesses.

Gordon MacDonald is the chief executive of WorkSafe, the government agency which oversees the health and safety laws.

He said there was no reason for businesses to panic and start spending heavily for consultants when there was plenty of free advice.

"They shouldn't be driven to that point by horror stories about the dire consequences of fines and imprisonment if they dot every 'i' and cross every 't'."

Businesses should calm down and tap the many sources of free information and advice on the new laws, Mr MacDonald said.

The Institute of Directors said its free seminars on the workplace laws had been heavily attended, and it was also advising small companies to save money and take advantage of the education and advice available.

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