Thank you for your patience as we continue to review and update our forms, templates, guidance, and other information following the lifting of the COVID-19 vaccination updates. In the meantime, our Advisory and Support Centre is available to discuss any governance or employment matters on 0800 782 435, or alternatively by email  –  (for employment advice) or  (for governance advice).

Understanding health and safety

Te mārama ki te hauora me te haumaru

Every school must have a strong focus on health and safety. It’s a core part of your legal obligations as a board.

Your school needs to meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. We're here to guide you through your obligations.

For more information and resources, see the Professional Development and Other Content sections below.

Your responsibilities as a board 

The Health and Safety at Work Act requires the board as an employer to do what is “reasonably practicable” to keep workers and “others” healthy and safe. “Workers” in a school context includes: teaching and non-teaching staff, contractors working at the school, student teachers and other trainees. “Others” includes the students, the board and all visitors to the school.

Increasingly, schools are encouraged and required to take a holistic view of health and safety that includes mental wellbeing. With strong policies, and regular monitoring and review processes in place, boards ensure there are systems in place that identify, assess and manage risks ahead of any harm and remove or reduce those risks “so far as is reasonably practicable”. 


“Each school has the right systems, people and initiatives to fit their culture and their needs”

- Wellbeing for success: Effective practice, Education Review Office, 2014 

What a model health and safety system looks like 

There are 10 components of an effective health and safety system.

  1. Leadership
  2. Worker participation
  3. Specific practice guidelines, rules and regulations
  4. Risk identification, assessment and management
  5. Workplace management
  6. Equipment
  7. Injury and illness management
  8. Injury and illness support and rehabilitation
  9. Health and wellbeing programmes
  10. Monitoring, reporting and assurance

These can be used to review your own health and safety systems and ensure you are meeting the requirements of the Act. 

It outlines everyone’s key roles and responsibilities. For example, it says the school’s leadership should set the direction of health and safety management in the workplace, while any health and wellbeing programmes that are put in place should ensure that everyone can proactively manage their own health and wellbeing. 


Why health and safety is a crucial part of your governance role

A robust governance structure will help you fulfil your legal obligations as a board. A good structure means showing strategic leadership and direction for health and safety through the charter process. It means having a policy framework and set of policies in place to give you direction and to guide all school activities. It also means having an ongoing auditing and review programme in place that looks at all aspects of your school’s health and safety performance.


What is a PCBU is and why is this role is essential 

A PCBU is a crucial role defined by the law, and it is a 'person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU). In the case of a school or Kura, the board is the PCBU. As the PCBU, it’s your role to ensure the health and safety of everybody at your school so far as is reasonably practicable.


Where you should focus your efforts 

As a board, the law says you should focus your efforts on what matters, based on risk, control, and size. That means understanding your level of risk in certain areas, actively managing critical risks, focusing your attention on how work is carried out and ensuring everyone is engaged and participating in your school’s health and safety policies and procedures.

Scroll Arrow Icon

© 2018 New Zealand School Trustees Association