New Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 changes rules around when to notify WorkSafe NZ

Obviously, we all hope that we never have to deal with an incident in the workplace.  But equally, we know that accidents do happen.  With the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, the rules around notifications have changed.  So what do you have to notify?  When?  How?

What do you have to notify? 

A Person Conducting a  Business or Undertaking (PCBU) must notify WorkSafe as soon as possible, when a Notifiable Event occurs.

A Notifiable Event includes:

  • A death
  • A notifiable illness or injury (more about that in a moment); or
  • A notifiable incident (this will also be explained further).

How do you notify?

You can notify by phone (0800 030 040) – this is a 24/7 phone number – or online, whichever is quicker and easier for you.  The online notification form can be found at or you can just follow the links from the homepage.

You must notify as soon as possible – this is a high standard, and WorkSafe NZ will expect you to notify virtually immediately.  In many circumstances your first call should be to Emergency Services (if that is appropriate) but the next call will probably be to WorkSafe.

A death is self-explanatory, but a Notifiable Illness or Injury and a Notifiable Incident take a little more explaining.

Notifiable Illness or Injury includes:

  • any of the following injuries or illnesses that require the person to have immediate treatment (other than first aid – i.e. urgent treatment from a medial practitioner, registered nurse, or paramedic):
    1. the amputation of any part of his or her body:
    2. a serious head injury:
    3. a serious eye injury:
    4. a serious burn:
    5. the separation of his or her skin from an underlying tissue (such as de-gloving or scalping):
    6. a spinal injury:
    7. the loss of a bodily function:
    8. serious lacerations:
  • an injury or illness that requires, or would usually require, the person to be admitted to a hospital for immediate treatment:
  • an injury or illness that requires, or would usually require, the person to have medical treatment (i.e. treatment by a registered medical practitioner)  within 48 hours of exposure to a substance:
  • any serious infection (including occupational zoonoses) to which the carrying out of work is a significant contributing factor, including any infection that is attributable to carrying out work—
    1. with micro-organisms; or
      that involves providing treatment or care to a person; or
    2. that involves contact with human blood or bodily substances; or
    3. that involves handling or contact with animals, animal hides, animal skins, animal wool or hair, animal carcasses, or animal waste products; or
    4. that involves handling or contact with fish or marine mammals:
  • any other injury or illness declared by regulations to be a notifiable injury or illness for the purposes of this section.

There is further information available on the WorkSafe NZ website regarding these injuries and illnesses.  For example, WorkSafe NZ expects to be notified about a  “serious head injury” which it considers to be a fractured skull, head injury that results in a loss of consciousness, blood clot or brain bleed, damage to the skull that may affect organ or facial function, loss of memory (temporary or permanent).

Note also that the illness or injury must be work-related.  So an employee who has a car accident on the way to work and suffers an injury, or a diabetic having a low-sugar incident, are not matters that need to be notified as they are not caused by or related to work.

Notifiable Incident

A notifiable incident is an unplanned or uncontrolled incident in relation to a workplace that exposes the health and safety of workers or others to a serious risk arising from immediate or imminent exposure to any of the following:

  • a substance escaping, spilling, or leaking
  • an implosion, explosion or fire
  • gas or steam escaping
  • a pressurised substance escaping
  • electric shock (from anything that could cause a lethal shock, for example it would not include shocks due to static electricity, from extra low voltage equipment or from defibrillators used for medical reasons)
  • the fall or release from height of any plant, substance, or thing
  • damage to or collapse, overturning, failing or malfunctioning of any plant that is required to be authorised for use under regulations
  • the collapse or partial collapse of a structure
  • the collapse or failure of an excavation or any shoring supporting an excavation
  • the inrush of water, mud, or gas in workings in an underground excavation or tunnel
  • the interruption of the main system of ventilation in an underground excavation or tunnel
  • a collision between two vessels, a vessel capsize, or the inrush of water into a vessel
  • any other incident declared in regulation to be a notifiable incident, for example those listed in:
    1. Regulation 6 of the Health and Safety At Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016
    2. Schedule 5 of the Health and Safety at Work (Mining Operations and Quarrying Operations) Regulations 2016
    3. Regulation 33 of the Health and Safety at Work (Major Hazard Facilities) Regulations 2016
    4. Regulation 70 of the Health and Safety at Work (Petroleum Exploration and Extraction) Regulations 2016

Notifiable incidents do not need to result in an actual accident or injury to anyone – these can be ‘near misses’ where someone’s health or safety is seriously endangered or threatened.

What else do you have to do?

In the event of multiple PCBUs being involved, only one has to notify WorkSafe.  However, all of the PCBUs involved have the obligation – so if you are leaving the notification to someone else, you will want to make certain that it actually happens. If there is a Notifiable Event, you are also required to preserve the site or “freeze the scene”.  This means not disturbing the site unless you need to move an injured or deceased person, it is essential to make the site safe for others, or you are directed to by a WorkSafe Inspector or Emergency Services.  Preserving the site means not changing anything about it – the set up, the plant, substances or things.  Work that might change the scene should stop, but can continue in other areas of the workplace or site.

You must also keep records of all Notifiable Events for at least 5 years from the date of the incident. 

Our advice:

  • If you are in any doubt about whether to report, call WorkSafe.  There are no penalties for reporting things you do not need to.  The penalties for not reporting are onerous.  It is better to call WorkSafe, and be told that they’re not interested, than get prosecuted for failing to report.
  • Figure out whose job it is to make notifications, and make sure that they know what to do and how.  Make sure you have a back-up plan in case that person is not at work.
  • If another PCBU says that they will report a Notifiable Event, make certain that they do.  If you are in doubt, do it yourself.


About Alison Maelzer:

Alison is Special Counsel at Hesketh Henry, and provides advice in all aspects of employment law (both contentious and non-contentious), with a particular interest in health and safety, disciplinary and performance issues. Alison was admitted to the Bar in 2001, and since that time has practiced exclusively in the employment jurisdiction.  Her background includes large firm and in-house local government experience. She regularly represents clients at Mediation, and in the Employment Relations Authority, and has appeared in the Employment Court.

Alison prides herself on providing pragmatic, business-focused advice with a view to minimising cost and time for the client. She ensures that advice is practical, solutions-based and delivered in plain English.