Health and Safety

Where a teacher's health and safety is shown to be at risk in the carrying out of her/his duties the employer shall take all reasonable steps as are necessary to remove or minimise the identified risk for the teacher and if appropriate, to do so in consultation with the relevant health and safety authorities.
See also your collective agreement STCA Part 10 / ASTCA Part 12

Coping after a traumatic event

The Ministry of Health has developed two resources with 1737 to assist those in mental distress as a result of the traumatic event in Christchurch, but the advice within is applicable across a wide variety of traumatic situations.

The resources are "Advice on supporting your kids after a traumatic event" and "Supporting your kids after a traumatic event".

Both are currently available in English, Arabic, Farsi, Indonesian, Malay, Somali, Turkish and New Zealand Sign Language (via video).

Click here to see the latest versions of each resource on the Ministry of Health's website.



Leave in emergency situations

The recent cyclones and earthquakes have created issues for schools and teachers.

The Ministry of Education or the Board of Trustees can decide that, according to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, it is appropriate to close the school. In this situation there should be no problems for staff.

However, if a school stays open but staff are not able to get to work due to adverse conditions in clauses in both the STCA and ASTCA apply. It is reasonable to expect paid leave in these circumstances.

The relevant clauses are 6.6.9a of the STCA and clause 5.6.8a of the ASTCA. Clauses 6.6.9b and 5.6.8b may also apply.

These clauses state:

Leave with or without pay may be granted for the following purposes subject to the criteria set out below being met.         

(a) Where a teacher is prevented from travelling from their home to work because of an emergency situation outside of the control of the teacher (up to seven (7) days leave with pay may be granted)

If you are concerned about this please contact your local field officer.

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 has been the cause of much discussion, debate and confusion.

A brief outline of the changes and how they might impact on schools is available in the October 2015 PPTA News (vol. 36 no. 8).

The Act’s key emphasis is on everyone in the workplace being involved in health and safety.

All workers have the right to participate and engage in health and safety and workplaces are required by law to have health and safety representatives.

Health and safety representatives and committees are legally entitled to have paid training and paid time for the job.

weblink Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

weblink Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 – A practical guide for boards of trustees and school leaders (a joint New Zealand School Trustees Association and Ministry of Education resource which PPTA had a role in developing)

weblink Ministry of Education health and safety resources


Temperature in the classroom - health and safety for teachers and students

Temperature in the classroom and wider school environment is a health and safety issue, especially when teachers and students are exposed to seasonal extremes.

An acceptable temperature to teach in will depend on a number of factors, including size of classroom, humidity level, availability of heating and air conditioning, and the subject taught. Because of these variables, the PPTA directs members to the guidelines published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on acceptable workplace temperature.

The guidelines state working in 19–24 degrees centigrade in summer and 18–22 in winter is acceptable for sedentary occupations. For active occupations, 16–21 and 16–19.

If you are experiencing uncomfortable workplace temperatures, you should discuss the issue with your workplace health and safety representative or call your local PPTA field officer.


Emergency school closures (e.g snow days) and the length of the school year

Where a  school is  closed  as  the result of an emergency (such as a snow  day) the  school may be allowed  to reduce by a  corresponding  amount the number of  half  days  it is  required  to be open in a given year.

The  school has to write to the local Ministry of Education office seeking permission to do this.

weblinkSection  65E of the  Education  Act 1989 applies

Frequently asked questions - Secondary schools and The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

With employees becoming "workers" and employers now "persons conducting a business or undertaking" (PCBUs) I have received a lot of questions about the new Health and Safety at Work Act:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q Am I now liable for accidents/incidents that happen in my teaching area?

A No more than you have been since HSE 1992, and only when you have been negligent or failed in a duty of care so no change

Q Does this mean the end of Education Outside the classroom (EOTC)?

A The intent is not to curtail any EOTC, what it means is that qualifications/experience etc are current for staff who run trips and external providers need to be consulted and have their qualifications etc confirmed. You should have been doing this anyway so no change.

Q Will we have to close access to school facilities after hours?

A No, the requirement is for the facilities to be fit for purpose at all times, if the facilities are safe during the day, then public use outside of school hours is fine. Case law has prosecuted boards when facilities have been deficient causing serious harm or death outside of school hours but this should have no effect on staff, it is a board issue.

Q What about school pools and access?

A Provided that the pool is properly fenced and locked when not in authorised use, processes are in place for supervised out of hours use and these processes are signposted then there are no issues. The school cannot be held responsible if someone scales a fence with a locked gate and harms themselves in unauthorised use of a pool (or any other facility).
There is no liability for anyone on site for illegal purposes.

Q Am I personally liable for Health and Safety of my outdoor education classes?

A No it is the duty of the board to ensure the safety of all workers and others ( this is where students fall under the new Act) this would include practices and processes for staff to follow that ensure Health and Safety for all in its care, however if the policies and processes are ignored then the liability may fall on the teacher.
This has been the case previously, no change.

Q Do I need to have risk analysis and managment systems (RAMs) for all experiments that I do every time I do them?

A No, they should have been verified before they go into the management doc/scheme/planner or whatever you call your existing planning programme. This is best practice and should be currently being done so no change.

Q Should we let kids climb trees?

A Do you let them already? Yes then no change. It has to be contextual, 50m tall Norfolk Pine probably not, 6m Apple tree probably, just apply common sense.

Q Will I need to close or limit my hard materials workshop classes?

A If you have sound teaching practice regarding machinery use then there is nothing to worry about. It may be advisable to update your record keeping of when and how you have approved students to use certain machines. It would pay to have a record of what machines were demonstrated and the safe use of them and when this took place.

Q Am I now financially liable for incidents?

A No you are not suddenly now liable. You have been liable since the 1992 Health and safety in Employment Act introduced 3 tiers of fine with a maximum of $500k for death or serious harm, interestingly nobody batted an eyelid at this figure which is now inflation adjusted to $808k but now the $600k has been announced everyone is up in arms and talking houses in trust etc. Nobody in the Education sector has been prosecuted since the 1992 Act was introduced and unless you are negligent and fail in your duty of care leading to serious harm or death then nobody will be fined this amount in the education sector. This has been the case previously so no change.

Q What responsibilities as a Teacher do I now have?

A Teachers must:

Take reasonable care for their health and safety

Take reasonable care that their behaviour does not adversely affect the health and safety of others

Report any incident, risk or hazard to an officer or health and safety representative

Comply with any reasonable instruction form the PCBU* (Board) to allow the PCBU to comply with the Act

Cooperate with the PCBU’s health and safety policies or procedures inform visitors etc of any known hazards or risks in the workplace (*A PCBU is a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’. )

Q What is the role of a Health and Safety Rep?

A A Health and Safety Representative (HSR) performs a number of functions including:

Representing school workers generally on health and safety matters

Investigating complaints from school workers about health and safety issues at the school

Representing a school worker on a specific health and safety matter (including a complaint) if asked to do so by that worker

Monitoring health and safety measures taken by the Board of Trustees and providing feedback to the Board about health and safety compliance

Inquiring into anything that appears to be a health and safety risk to school workers arising from the activities of the school and making recommendations to the Board of Trustees on work health and safety

Promoting the interests of school workers who have been harmed at work, including arrangements for rehabilitation and return to work

Issuing provisional improvement notices in the school workplace

Being able to direct workgroup members (school workers the HSR represents) to cease work.

Q What is the role of a Health and Safety Committee?

A A Health and Safety Committee:

Facilitates co-operation between the Board of Trustees and school workers in instigating, developing, and carrying out measures designed to ensure the school workers’ health and safety at work

Assists in developing any standards, rules, policies, or procedures relating to health and safety that are to be followed or complied with at the school

Makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees about work health and safety.

Q How many Health and Safety reps (HSRs) may we have?

A The prescribed minimum ratio of HSRs for a work group is 1 representative for every 19 workers. If the number of workers divided by 19 does not equal a whole number, the number of health and safety representatives to be elected is increased to the next whole number. e.g. 10 workers = 1 HSR, 23 workers = 2 HSRs

Q How do we get the Health and Safety reps?

A Any 1 worker may request elections for Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) or the PCBU may decide to call for elections (regulations apply as to how this happens)

Q How do we get a Health and Safety Committee?

A Any 5 workers or 1 HSR may call for formation of a Health and Safety Committee (HSC) or the PCBU may decide to appoint one (regulations apply as to how this happens)

Any other questions email




Schools with buildings assessed as an earthquake risk: Guidelines for PPTA members

Schools are being identified as having buildings which are unsafe in the event of an earthquake

The Ministry of Education, school boards and local government authorities have been more actively assessing the earthquake risk of school buildings throughout New Zealand.

This has resulted in school buildings being deemed unsafe for staff and students. At 9 July 2011 23 primary and secondary schools in the Wellington region alone were identified as having buildings assessed as unsafe in an earthquake. More schools are likely to be identified as these assessements continue.

PPTA Branches/members should email details of new school building earthquake assessments or related concerns to PPTA will use the information to assist members and branches.

Requirements for alternative classroom spaces when buildings have been assessed as an earthquake risk

The first priority must be the health and safety of staff and students.

The branch/member must respect any assessment by a registered engineer and work actively with management to source alternative classroom space and ensure that any new classrooms are fit for their subject/purpose.

Spaces must be 'fit for purpose'

The school's health and safety representative has an important role in assessing new classroom space for current and potential hazards, e.g. ensuring a temporary classroom for chemistry lessons has appropriate ventilation and equipment. Trained health and safety representatives have the ability to issue formal notices if an employer fails to take all practical steps to isolate and minimise hazards.

Consultation must take place regarding timetables for the use of alternative spaces

Clause 5.1A of the Secondary Teachers' Collective Agreement (STCA) requires consultation around a school's timetable policy. This will be useful if management propose members move into unsuitable teaching space, e.g. to teach hard and soft materials in a prefabricated classroom with carpet and limited power points. Clause 5.1A is a reminder that boards and management must consult with teachers over timetable matters.

Teachers teach. Removal specialists relocate classroom equipment and resources.

Members are employed as teachers to deliver the national curriculum and undertake pastoral care duties. They are not employed as removal specialists for furniture, equipment and resources.

Checklist for earthquake-prone buildings and requests to relocate

The attached checklist is an easy to use tool if faced with classroom closure or a request to relocate. The board and school management can also use the checklist to assess decision making processes around classroom closures.

 PPTA field officers can advocate for branches if there are industrial issues as a result of classroom closure or temporary relocation.

When is a school building safe?  How do you know?

Design standards for buildings in earthquakes were first introduced into New Zealand in 1935 following the Napier earthquake. Around 1965, three different earthquake zones were identified reflecting the growing knowledge of the different seismicity of various parts of New Zealand.

The Building Act 2004 requires councils to establish an Earthquake Prone Building (EPB) register, to notify owners and set timeframes for action to strengthen or vacate. Buildings with less than one third of the strength of a new building have about 10 to 20 times the risk of serious damage or collapse when compared to a new building.

The Ministry of Education (MoE) property manual guidelines say their buildings must be built to 100% of the standard. IPENZ (Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand) recommends 67% as a minimum.

An EPB is 33% or less than the New Building Standard (NBS). The NBS was revised in 2004 from the original 1991 standard. At 33% or less of the NBS,
an EPB is deemed likely to suffer collapse causing bodily injury or death to persons in the building in a moderate earthquake.

What is a moderate earthquake?

The legal definition is: "In relation to a building, an earthquake that would generate shaking at the site of the building that is of the same duration as, but that is one-third as strong as, the earthquake shaking (determined by normal measures of acceleration, velocity and displacement) that would be used to design a new building at the site."

Who is responsible? Councils, the Ministry of Education, Boards of Trustees?

The Act requires each territorial authority (councils) to have a policy on earthquake buildings but allows them to decide on the approach, priorities and  timetable to be followed. By 2006 local authorities were to have developed and adopted a policy regarding local buildings most vulnerable in a moderate earthquake and ensure a balance between earthquake risk and social and economic implications of implementing the policy.

Councils use an Independent Evaluation Procedure (IEP) to determine structural performance before they contact the owners of buildings designated less than 33% of code. Wellington is further ahead than most councils but Crown owned buildings do not appear on the Wellington City Council EPB website list.
State school buildings in New Zealand are owned by the MoE. Some integrated schools have their buildings owned by churches. The MoE initiated a review of school buildings across the country in1998 and spent some money on remediation of buildings. The results of the reviews are held in the local MoE regional offices. Apparently not all reviews have been completed. It is unclear but likely that there are few situations where buildings with high occupancy are below 17%.

We know Golden Bay High School had notice of their building rating at just at 3% which led to a swift evacuation. Wellington East Girls' College's building came in at 17%. Apparently at under 10% the MoEy will advise evacuation but this is not certain. Otherwise the decision is left to Boards of Trustees to manage on the advice of engineers' reports from the MoE.

Not all Boards may have received reports if they are held in regional MoE offices. BOTs have the responsibility under section 16 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act to make sure that all practical steps are taken to ensure that no hazard harms people at the school. Failure to comply with the Act has serious consequences.


Naming and Shaming - Workplace Bullying in New Zealand

Bullying is often referred to as the ‘silent epidemic’ in workplaces. Workplace bullying has been identified in recent WorkSafe New Zealand Guidelines as a ‘significant hazard’ and the findings of a New Zealand based multi-university research report on stress and bullying in 2009 revealed that one in five participants reported being constantly bullied in the workplace.

Unfortunately, the concept of ‘bullying’ has not always been clearly defined in employment law. The issue of workplace bullying has often been cast in a simplistic way as ‘bad behaviour’ versus ‘reasonable management instruction’ - the reality is much more complex than this.

Bullying behaviours

Bullying behaviours include: public humiliation, persistent public criticism, undermining integrity, inaccurate accusation, witch hunt, undervaluing contribution, scapegoating, overloading, ridiculing, intrusions on privacy, belittling, impossible deadlines, unwanted physical contact, threats of violence, dirty looks, unjustified disciplinary hearings, isolating, ignoring views, removing responsibility, denial of opportunity, verbal abuse, stalking, teasing, lies being told, attacking beliefs, and using obscene or offensive language.

Preventing and responding to workplace bullying

Worksafe have published updated guidelines on Workplace Bullying.

weblink Bullying - Preventing and responding to workplace bullying

The guidelines include several helpful tools, including:

  •     An ‘Am I Being Bullied’ checklist
  •     A flowchart of actions for dealing with being bullied
  •     A calculator tool for employers to assess the cost of bullying
  •     A workplace assessment tool that measures organisational culture with a view to preventing bullying.

pptaweb icon If you are being bullied, PPTA field officers can help.


 Bullying poster2

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Last modified on Wednesday, 17 May 2023 08:21