WorkSafe's role as a regulator

We are New Zealand’s work health and safety regulator.

The regulator

WorkSafe New Zealand is New Zealand’s primary work health and safety regulator. Other government agencies (called designated agencies) carry out health and safety regulatory functions for certain sectors.

The regulator works collaboratively with persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs), workers and their representatives to embed and promote good work health and safety practices. The regulator also enforces health and safety law.

The regulator has Inspectors who visit workplaces. An Inspector’s role is to ensure duty holders comply with health and safety law.

Some of the regulator’s functions are described in Figure 1.

[image] Diagram showing the role of the regulator.
Figure 1: Regulator functions

WorkSafe runs a Contact Centre that answers general questions about work health and safety issues. The Contact Centre operates during business hours and can be reached at 0800 030 040.


If an Inspector reasonably believes there is a breach of HSWA or regulations, or an immediate risk to health and safety, there are measures they can use to remedy the unsafe situation. Where there is a breach of HSWA or regulations, notices can be issued or other actions taken (see below).

Under certain circumstances, instead of taking enforcement action, an Inspector may provide directive advice (for example, a letter or verbal advice). WorkSafe will record letters and verbal directions to refer to if there is a similar breach in the future.

What tools are available to the Regulator?

There are many tools available in regard to enforcement and compliance, including:

  • notices: improvement notices, prohibition notices, non-disturbance notices, infringement notices
  • enforceable undertakings > remedial actions > prosecutions.

Enforcement and compliance tools


Improvement notices

Issued if an Inspector reasonably believes a breach of HSWA or regulations is occurring or likely to occur. An improvement notice requires changes to be made to remedy the breach or likely breach within a stated time period (the compliance period).

Prohibition notices

Issued if an Inspector reasonably believes there is a serious risk to the health and safety of a person because of a failure to comply with HSWA or regulations, or that an activity poses a serious risk arising from immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard. A prohibition notice requires an activity or matter to be stopped until a specified health and safety problem is fixed.

Non-disturbance notices

Issued to preserve the site of a notifiable event, or prevent a particular site from being disturbed for a specified period.

Infringement notices

Issued for minor offences against HSWA or regulations.

Enforceable undertakings

An alternative to a prosecution. When the regulator agrees, a person can voluntarily enter a binding agreement to take action to settle an alleged breach of the law and remedy the harm caused.

Remedial actions

Taken when:

  • a person fails to take reasonable steps to comply with the requirements of a prohibition notice, or
  • if a prohibition notice could be issued but the person cannot be found.

Taken for breaching HSWA or regulations.

HSWA also allows a person to bring a private prosecution under certain circumstances

Role of regulator (PDF 59 KB)