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Earthquake-Prone Buildings and the Health and Safety Act – How Does This Affect You?

Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSEA), employers and owners of buildings which are places of work must identify and manage hazards in the place of work. This includes building-related hazards.

Building owners must also meet the requirements of the Building Act 2004. This includes standards for buildings' earthquake resilience.

If an existing building does not meet more than one-third of the new building standard for earthquake strength design, it is deemed to be earthquake-prone and local councils are empowered to require owners to undertake work to improve it.

Until earthquake strengthening work is completed, potentially thousands of workplaces are unsafe, and potentially in breach of the HSEA. Worksafe New Zealand has issued a position statement setting out its stance on earthquake-related hazards and the HSEA.

Worksafe New Zealand's view:

• It will not take health and safety enforcement action in relation to earthquake-prone buildings, because this is covered by the Building Act.

• Any enforcement action will come from your local council.

• If Worksafe becomes aware of issues relating to the earthquake resilience of a building then it will raise the issue with the relevant local council.

• However, if an employer or landlord does not comply with the Building Act and someone is seriously harmed following an earthquake, they could face enforcement action under the HSEA.

The full position statement can be found on Worksafe New Zealand's website: http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/all-guidance-items/position-statement-dealing-with-earthquake-related-hazards, which also contains links to other guidance for building owners.

Written by Shima Grice at 09:00

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