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What Is a Safe System of Work?

Published September 08, 2016 (last updated December 7, 2020) -

A safe system of work is the procedure or process you have in place to eliminate or minimise the risks involved in your workplace operations.

As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), it is your responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace, as far as is reasonably practicable, for your workers. The best way to do this is through conducting a risk assessment of your business and consulting with your employees.

Risk assessments

A risk assessments assists with building your knowledge and understanding of hazards and risks which have been identified in your workplace, so that a decision can be made on how best to eliminate or control them. The goal of a risk assessment is to either remove a hazard or reduce the chances of it occurring by adding additional precautionary or control measures. By doing so, you are creating a safer and healthier working environment.

Risk assessments are highly important as they assist to:

  • create awareness of hazards and risks
  • identify who may be at risk
  • determine whether there are existing control measures for the risk and whether these are adequate, or if more needs to be done

A risk assessment involves:

  • what level of injury or harm could occur
  • determining how the injury or harm could occur
  • assessing the likelihood that the injury or harm will occur
  • ensuring a safe method of working for high-risk work processes or procedures

Part of the new legislation are a set of six regulations that may apply to your operations and business. One of the regulations pertaining general risk and workplace management applies to all businesses and PCBUs. It is essential that you understand when you are required to conduct risk assessments to avoid unnecessary fines, which on conviction tend to be a maximum of $10,000 per failure to uphold a general obligation.


A PCBU must consult, as far as is reasonably practicable, with workers for the business or undertaken who are likely to be directly affected by a health and safety matter within in the workplace. Health and safety consultation is required when identifying hazards, assessing risks and deciding on the best practice to control them.

The duty to consult with your workers is based on the acknowledgement that worker input and participation raises risk awareness and helps to minimise work related injuries or harms to health.

Consultation with your workers is an essential part of managing health and safety risks within a workplace. A safe working environment is much more achievable when all workers are in communication regarding how to identify and appropriately respond to risks.

By involving your workers and requesting their input, more informed decisions can be made regarding how work and duties should be carried out.

Work health and safety consultation with workers should be conducted when:

  • introducing new equipment into the workplace
  • proposing changes which may affect the health and safety of workers
  • identifying hazards and risks which may result from the work being carried out
  • making informed decisions on the best way to minimise or eliminate risks and hazards which have been identified

What is considered ‘reasonably practicable’?

As mentioned above, a PCBU is required to provide and maintain a safe working environment, as far as is reasonably practicable. In simple terms, reasonably practicable means what could reasonably be done at a particular time to ensure health and safety measures are in place.

Employsure is a workplace relations specialist, who can answer any questions regarding safe systems of work for your business, contact Employsure on 0800 568 012. We can assist you in ensuring your workplace is a safe one.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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