St James Primary School students will keep climbing trees and playing touch rugby, even after the implementation of the new Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) on April 4.
The principal of the Palmerston North school, Teresa Edwards, told NZ Catholic that everyone in school helped in identifying the risks in the school and what actions to take to prevent accidents and injuries.

WorkSafe chief executive Gordon MacDonald, People Safe founder Zane Yates and St James Primary principal Teresa Edwards with the students.
WorkSafe chief executive Gordon MacDonald, People Safe founder Zane
Yates and St James Primary principal Teresa Edwards with the students.

“The whole focus around the new health and safety law is that everybody’s responsible. It’s no longer just the principal or the
nominated health and safety person around the school; we are all responsible,” she said.

She said that meant “we’re all accountable if we see something or engaged in a risk with something that we’re doing”.

Mrs Edwards said Zane Yates, chief executive officer and founder of People Safe, is a parent of one of their students and has helped the school with software designed to manage everyday risks. People Safe has online safety software for businesses and organisations to get their health and safety sorted.

Students and staff are engaged in the process. “We’ve sort of co-created the safety plan together,” she explained.

Engaging the students in the process also made the children realise the possible dangers in the playground and what they need to do to be safe.

“They [pupils] are going to want to do whatever we decided instead of somebody like me coming in and saying this is the way it’s going to be,” she added.

WorkSafe chief executive Gordon MacDonald in a media release said there had been a mixture of over-reaction, misinformation and scaremongering over the impact of the new law.

He said new aspects in the HSWA clarified duties, and were designed to better protect workers in New Zealand’s workplaces.

He expressed disappointment at hearing wild claims about sports events likely to be cancelled, principals putting houses into trusts and bowling clubs being forced to take down coat racks.

“It is vital we don’t get sidetracked by doomsday scenarios that simply won’t occur under the new law. We must keep focused on what’s important,” he said.

Still, principals are closely monitoring the impact of the new act on St Kentigern College in Auckland after two of its students were hurt by a prop — a razor — while staging a play.

St Peter’s College principal James Bentley said: “All schools are now watching the outcome of this episode with interest, as the very nature of schools, in their sheer size of numbers, means there is always an element of risk.”

He said that the new law “has worthy intentions, but many commentators are of the opinion that it is fixated on blame”.

“Many will tell schools to relax and persist with these activities, something very easy to say when it is not them staring down the barrel of a $600,000 fine,” he said.

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