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Health and safety law

Accidents in the workplace require a rapid, coordinated response. Kensington Swan can be on the scene immediately to give you legal advice and practical support.

We have the largest dedicated team of occupational safety and health (OSH) lawyers in New Zealand. Our experts have extensive experience handling serious harm investigations by WorkSafe New Zealand, Civil Aviation Authority, Energy Safety, Maritime New Zealand and the Police.

Broad expertise

New Zealand will has a relatively new law, the Health and Safety at Work Act. We understand this new law, including its technicalities and nuances. Our leading health and safety lawyer, Grant Nicholson, has completed Masters level study on this new law at the University of Melbourne, Australia's number one law faculty.

We have expertise in all aspects of business and personal interactions with regulators under:

  • the Health and Safety in Employment Act, including prohibition notices and improvement notices
  • the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act
  • the Accident Compensation Act (ACC).

We also regularly help clients assist and respond to Coroners’ inquests.

Kensington Swan is a corporate member of New Zealand’s two national health and safety organisations, the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management Inc and the New Zealand Safety Council Inc. Grant Nicholson, is also a member of IOSH (the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, the world’s leading health and safety organisation) and the Safety Institute of Australia.

Managing investigations

Investigations after accidents can be complex, with regulators seeking evidence through documents, written questions, and interviews with employees, directors, and others. We can assist you to respond to all investigations and to persuade WorkSafe New Zealand or other regulators that you are careful and have acted appropriately. Where necessary, we can also help you defend prosecutions, challenge improvement notices and prohibition notices, appeal decisions by WorkSafe New Zealand, or make sentencing submissions to the court

Accident prevention

Our lawyers can help you create effective health and safety systems, policies, and procedures to prevent (or minimise the risk of) accidents occurring.

We also provide dedicated training for directors, executives, and middle management on health and safety leadership, and coordinate ACC related issues, including the ACC Partnership Programme.

Agreements and contracts

Our team can also advise you on terms and conditions for health and safety compliance in employment agreements and other contracts, including with contractors and subcontractors.

Recent experience

McConnell Dowell Constructors Limited

Following the death of 29 miners in an underground explosion at the Pike River Coal Mine, we assisted McConnell Dowell, a contractor at the site, during investigations by the Police, Department of Labour (predecessor to Worksafe New Zealand) , Chief Coroner, and Royal Commission. Our strategic advice and support ensured McConnell Dowell’s limited role at the mine was portrayed fairly.

Large New Zealand company—support, training, and education

We provided support and training to a major New Zealand organisation as part of its safety leadership programme for middle management. This included commentary on its health and safety culture, and issues to consider after incidents occur.


We advised on investigations by the Police and WorkSafe New Zealand after a motorcyclist was killed by a reversing truck in roadworks. We helped achieve an excellent sentencing outcome where the client’s health and safety practices were assessed in a fair context.


We helped with the investigation by WorkSafe New Zealand after a customer was crushed by a pallet of timber falling from racking. This avoided action against the operator and saw PlaceMakers receive an excellent outcome from the Court.

Prominent professional sports organisation

We supported this client with its investigation and dealings with WorkSafe New Zealand after people attending a match were hurt during pre-game entertainment. The client was delighted that WorkSafe New Zealand was persuaded not to prosecute the organisers, focusing instead on the entertainment provided.

Wholesale distributor

We assisted this client after a worker died following a roll of flooring product fell and crushed him. The client’s commitment to safe practices was emphasised and WorkSafe New Zealand took no action.

Infrastructure business

We advised a large infrastructure business on issues arising from the rebuild of Christchurch, including issues with CERA and insurers and ensuring contractors are managed effectively and deliver safe outcomes. This has helped the client build relationships while minimising risk.

Leading construction group

We persuaded WorkSafe New Zealand to withdraw an improvement notice against a leading construction business, after allegations it had failed to properly manage contractors involved in redevelopment of a supermarket.

Major Brewery

We undertook workshops for management teams and provided advice on health and safety governance and compliance.

High hazards manufacturer

We supported this client on dealings with WorkSafe New Zealand and compliance with the Health and Safety at Work (Major Hazard Facilities) Regulations after chemical leaks. WorkSafe New Zealand valued the client’s collaborative approach and took no enforcement action.

Major retailer

We helped this retailer after an improvement notice was issued alleging that meat slicing machines used at delicatessen counters needed additional guarding. This notice was unworkable and we successfully negotiated withdrawal of the notice, strengthening the collaborative relationship between the organisations.

Educational institution

We advised this leading tertiary institution on its compliance activities, helping it develop safe systems to understand and manage risk and training senior leaders on their governance obligations.

Crown agencies

We have advised various Crown agencies on procurement, ensuring major capital works projects have proceeded safely with risks properly managed and contractors understanding what was expected of them.

International winery

We assessed legal compliance and worked with this client to strengthen its systems, helping its management team understand their legal obligations and verifying that compliance activities were minimising risk.

Prominent building supplies business

We advised on dealing with workers and WorkSafe New Zealand after asbestos was discovered in parts of a production facility. Good communication and collaborative risk management ensured this problem was handled sensitively and staff felt valued and safe.

Property development company

We advised on contract terms and legal compliance to help this client understand and comply with its duties in a large residential subdivision, managing risk and ensuring the developer and building contractors completed work safely.

Related legal services

Employment law and labour relations
Dispute resolution
Government relations

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