Airline Industry Says Health and Safety in Employment Bill is Potentially Dangerous For Public
Airline industry operators say the new provisions in the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill reported back
to Parliament this week will inevitably result in reduced safety regimes and increased risks for the travelling public.
“If it proceeds with its intention, the Government will be ignoring the earnest advice of the entire commercial aviation
industry”, said John Funnell, President of the Aviation Industry Association of New Zealand, “and also the specialist
safety system and legal advice.”
Mr Funnell, who is one of New Zealand’s most experienced general aviation and rescue pilots, said that the effect of the
Bill, which is to make an aircraft the subject of the Health and Safety in Employment Act, even though the safety of
aircrew and passengers is already regulated by the Civil Aviation Act, “will impost conflicting legislation, additional
costs and seriously degraded safety for both aircrew and passengers”.
“Anything that puts the safety and health of any crew member at risk, also puts at risk the other crew members, and the
passengers, and those on the ground over which the aircraft flies. This proposed legislation will do just that.
“Aviation safety is recognised throughout the world as a specialist area of safety regulation. It is totally dependent
on an interlocking international framework which specifies everything from aircraft design, to cabin safety, fuel
quality, medical fitness, aircrew qualification and air traffic control.”
Referring to the history of the proposed legislation, Mr Funnell said that without any proper risk analysis, the
Government introduced a provision in the already controversial Health and Safety in Employment Bill which would remove a
special exemption in the Act in relation to aircrew while onboard aircraft. It will also remove jurisdictional
competence from the specialist aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority.
“That exemption was originally put there in 1993 by Parliament following extensive investigation by the then Select
Committee. The issues were well understood and documented in Hansard. The New Zealand approach followed the same
approach as the Federal Aviation Authority in United States – namely that aviation safety, including the health and
safety of crew, was mandated via Civil Aviation legislation.
“It is unacceptable to be creating a situation in which the HSE Act is going to start second guessing what constitutes
safe aviation work practices.
Mr Funnell said it is most unwise to be contaminating the carefully nurtured ‘no blame’ environment that applies
throughout the aviation industry which ensures that safety information is freely shared, with the more punitive
philosophy of the HSE Act.
“Under the new HSE Bill, anyone can initiate a prosecution. It will only take one such prosecution and the whole
information safety climate in civil aviation will change overnight.”
Mr Funnell said that his Association accepted that although aviation was already by far the safest form of transport,
there was space for further improvement and the Association was committed to that objective.
“However, this will only be achieved through applying proper risk management practices and not by creating legislative
havoc as the HSE Amendment Bill if passed, will do.
“Our Association wishes to work with Government on this issue because we agree with the bottom line objective. However,
it is totally unacceptable to introduce a framework which creates two overlapping and competing safety systems for
regulating onboard safety.”