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WorkSafe NZ

Better Governance

Towards better health and safety governance  

The health, safety and wellbeing of kaimahi (workers) is both an ethical and legal responsibility for those who govern and lead businesses and organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand. This includes those who govern from overseas. 

Health and safety are generally on the agenda for boards, officers and leaders but our collective performance has stalled. In some cases, our performance is getting worse. Kaimahi are still being killed and seriously harmed while whakamahi (working) in Aotearoa at similar rates to a decade ago. Our current approach to health and safety governance is not driving the improvements we want and need. 

The Better Governance project is an initiative led by the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum and General Manager Safety Forum, with support from WorkSafe New Zealand and the Institute of Directors. WorkSafe funded phase one of the project over 2022 as it has publicly signalled its intention to increase its focus on the role and work of boards in supporting healthy and safe mahi (work). Work towards the next phase of the project has begun in 2023. 

The vision and recommended actions for better health and safety governance 

In their final report issued in early 2023, 'Findings and recommended actions to improve health and safety governance in Aotearoa New Zealand', the project team has delivered a vision for health and safety governance alongside a set of principles that Boards and Officers can use to guide their health and safety governance practices. It also made a series of recommendations for action and change.  

You can find the report and summary here: 

 Full report

Summary report

The vision for health and safety governance is: 

Capable leaders integrating health and safety into curious and courageous governance discussions and decision, that are context-rich and demonstrate care for workers.


You can read more about the vision, and the principles that support it here: Vision pamphlet

Stakeholder engagement to support the vision and recommendations 

The Stakeholder Engagement report released in October 2022, identified a compliance-focussed approach to health and safety governance. Most stakeholders agreed action and improvements in health and safety governance were needed to move beyond this, but that it would be a challenge.  

You can read the report and summary here: 

Full report

Summary report

The advice available to officers and leaders  

The 'Health and safety governance advisors, advice and other influences report' released in September 2022, identified that officers and leaders seek advice from a wide range of people and organisations, some of whom provide general advice, some health and safety-specific advice. It also found that there’s a wealth of publicly available governance materials but very little health and safety governance material adding value.  

You can read the report and summary here: 

Full report

Summary report

Next steps 

Support and funding are being sought to turn the project team’s recommendations into reality. As the team works towards the next phase, they encourage boards, officers and leaders to use their vision and principles to start the change process. 

You can contact the project by emailing info@forum.org.nz