Real estate boss ‘cautious’ on health and safety laws

by NZ Adviser06 Jul 2016
The real estate industry must take a cautious approach to the new health and safety laws which came into effect on 4 April, otherwise there could be huge penalties, says Harcourts CEO Chris Kennedy. 

“Until businesses have a clear understanding of the consequences, this is the only pragmatic approach,” said Kennedy.

Suggestions that open home attendees will have to sign a hazards register which identifies any potential hazard you can possibly dream up – such as tripping over a laundry step or slipping down a driveway – is simply ridiculous, Kennedy said.

The aim of the health and safety laws is to cut down on New Zealand’s workplace injury and death toll, which is poor in comparison with similar countries. 

Severe penalties face those who fail to comply, which could include five years in prison and a fine of up to $600,000.

Kennedy says, Harcourts, the real estate industry as a whole, and other employers are therefore proceeding with extreme caution.

“Like many other businesses and industries, real estate professionals have had to make changes to the way we conduct business. We need to be very careful because the laws are untested.

“For us, a workplace is any place in which we conduct business – our offices, our cars, managed properties and open homes.”

Harcourts is using the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand’s (REINZ) guidelines on how to minimise risk in these workplaces. The guide was put together with help from the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) and is extremely comprehensive.

Harcourts now advises sales consultants to identify hazards at open homes and have attendees sign a hazard register.

The comprehensive REINZ guidelines lists many potential hazards that could be included, however it is up to the individual sales consultant to use their common sense when preparing the hazards register. These may include risks such as open drains, unfenced swimming pools or in specific markets, such as Christchurch, hazards relating to earthquake damaged properties.

“REINZ has put together fulsome guidelines to protect our industry, however, it is, of course, up to each individual sales consultant to use their judgement to identify what the real hazards are.” 

Kennedy says he makes no apology for providing the Harcourts’ team with comprehensive guidelines.

“Until the health and safety laws are tested, no one knows just what the implications will be. And when something is unknown, I always proceed with caution.”

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