FAQs: HSWA and the maritime sector

Answers to frequently asked questions about the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and associated regulations, the maritime sector and Maritime New Zealand.

Q. How do I know if my operation complies with the Health and Safety at Work Act?

Information on our website and from WorkSafe New Zealand explains what operators need to do under the HSWA.

Maritime NZ appreciates that it’s going to take time for businesses and workers to become familiar with the changes introduced by the HSWA.

Initially we will engage closely with the maritime sector and provide information about how to comply with the new requirements.

Many of our maritime officers are becoming trained and warranted health and safety inspectors and are a good source of information at the coalface.

For general information


Q. I have an approved Maritime Transport Operator Certificate (MTOC) under MOSS. What more do I need to do?

Operators must meet both MOSS and HSWA requirements. MOSS addresses many duties required under the HSWA and it isn’t necessary to duplicate these.

If you follow your approved Maritime Transport Operator Plan (MTOP) you will generally fulfil the HSWA duties to:

  • manage risks
  • ensure the safety of others in the workplace
  • develop emergency management plans
  • notify events
  • periodically review workplace controls
  • provide health and safety information to workers.

However, the following HSWA duties are not specifically addressed by MOSS:

  • overlapping duties
  • upstream duties
  • officers’ due diligence
  • duty to manage asbestos
  • worker engagement, participation and representation
  • the requirement to provide facilities.

For general information

Q. Do I need to complete a document, like my Maritime Transport Operator Plan (MTOP), for the new Act?

The HSWA doesn’t require maritime operators to have formally documented health and safety systems approved by Maritime NZ.

However, written records are a good way to keep track of the processes you have in place such as how you collect and address worker health and safety suggestions and concerns.

You don’t need different systems for MOSS and the HSWA – develop one system that covers both sets of requirements. If you are part of an ACC ‘incentive’ scheme, you can include those requirements as well.

Q. I have a water taxi business. If one of my passengers ignores safety instructions and, as a result, gets hurt on my boat, am I responsible?

The HSWA requires that passengers:

  • take reasonable care of their own health and safety
  • take reasonable care that the things they do not harm the health and safety of other people
  • follow reasonable instructions given by the operator so that the operator can comply with their duties under the HSWA.

Operators must have safe operating procedures for passengers as part of their certification under MOSS. These procedures will address things such as induction and safety management. It is unlikely that an operator will be responsible for injuries to passengers who ignore their safety instructions.

Q. I am self-employed and I run my own boat with crew. What do I need to know about the new Act?

Under the HSWA you are a ‘PCBU’ - a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’. You are also classed as a ‘worker’ because you are doing work.

As a PCBU you have a duty to look after:

  • your own health and safety
  • the health and safety of other workers that work on your boat, and;
  • the health and safety of other people who might be affected by the work you do (including passengers).

If your operation follows an approved maritime transport operator plan (MTOP), you already meet many of the duties required under the HSWA.

You will need to address ‘overlapping duties’. This means when you work with other businesses, for example when a contractor works on your boat, you need to consult with them and coordinate your health and safety approach.

Maritime New Zealand has published guidance explaining this requirement:

For HSWA guidance documents

Q. I own one boat, which I operate by myself, with no crew – I am the skipper whenever the boat is used. How much difference does the HSWA make to what I have to do?

Under the HSWA you are a ‘PCBU’ – a person conducting a business or undertaking’. But if you have no workers (crew), it is likely that the biggest change will be the ‘overlapping duties’ requirement, outlined above.


Q. I’m the chief executive of a large maritime operation. How can I discharge my responsibilities for health and safety obligations when I work in an office and my ships are at sea?

Under the HSWA, ‘officers’ of PCBUs must exercise due diligence to ensure that their operation fulfils its health and safety duties. Chief executives and directors are officers.

Ways you can exercise due diligence include:

  • keep up-to-date with workplace health and safety matters
  • understand the work of the business and the hazards and risks involved
  • have in place processes and resources to minimise risks
  • have in place a process for receiving and considering information about incidents, hazards and risks.

You may need structured processes to ensure that you meet your due diligence duty. If you are land-based, you will likely need to rely on information from your staff and you need to be able to collect and consider that information.

While you don’t have to be a health and safety expert, you need to make a reasonable effort to understand what questions to ask. For example, if your operation has three ships and you notice in the monthly health and safety reports that one vessel never reports any injuries while the other two do, this could be a cue to ask questions and dig into the situation to understand more about what is happening.

Q. As a master under the MTA I call the shots but under HSWA I’m considered a ‘worker’. How can I tell what act applies at what time? How do I manage these different requirements?

Under maritime law, ships’ masters have a great deal of responsibility and control over the ship while at sea. At the same time, masters working for a maritime operator as an employee or contractor, are a ‘worker’ under HSWA.

The maritime operator (as the PCBU) has the primary duty to ensure the health and safety of workers and other people in the operation. In practice, operators and masters must work together to ensure their duties are met.

Maritime operators (PCBUs) also have overall responsibility for the operation. They must have in place systems and processes to ensure the safety of workers and provide appropriate resources – e.g. safe machinery, equipment and facilities. While the operator may not be physically present, they have a duty to ensure that the ship operates safely, and can’t contract out or transfer this duty.

The master controls the ship when it is at sea, and makes the day-to-day decisions required to run the ship. They are responsible for looking after the ship and crew and must take appropriate steps when machinery, equipment etc. needs maintenance or poses a risk to health and safety. As the person ‘on the spot’ it’s the master’s job to make sure that everyone understands and uses the health and safety systems and processes put in place by the PCBU.

For general information

Related information:
Health and Safety for mariners.

Health and Safety

A guide for mariners

This guide provides information about your responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 2015.

[PDF: 3.01Mb, 72 pages]


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