New health and safety legislation is an opportunity for schools and centres to review and strengthen procedures, says NZEI legal advisor David Martin.

The new law puts more onus on principals, while individual board of trustee members have less liability. The new law comes into effect in April 2016. Under existing legislation, principals can be prosecuted, but this is rarely done. The new act – in a measure aimed at company directors following Pike River – makes prosecution easier.

“It’s important that principals avoid a ‘compliance’ mentality – but rather use the new law as an opportunity to review and update procedures and practices to ensure their commitments are met, without being unnecessarily restrictive,” says Martin.

NZEI has met with the Ministry of Education to push for improved access to ondemand training for principals, more workshops, better resources and more support generally, to avoid panic. Advice on the ministry’s website will be updated over coming months (google “health and safety ministry of education nz”).

“Principals need to be aware of the new legislation,” says Martin, “and discuss the situation with colleagues, and keep apace of developments.”