Wednesday 26 August 2015

How many divisions does 'intent' have?

I wonder whether the government oughtn't pull its health and safety legislation and try again. 

Radio New Zealand reports on school principals' worries that they'll be subject to potentially large fines if kids are injured on school trips or on the playground. 
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse said schools would need to ensure 'so far as is reasonably practicable' the health and safety of staff, and that its work did not endanger other people such as students and visitors.
"Schools only need to do what is reasonably practicable and what is under their control. So if something goes wrong that is beyond the school's control, or if it has taken reasonably practicable steps to reduce the risk, it will not be held accountable."
Mr Woodhouse said the maximum fines were only imposed in extreme circumstances for the most serious offences where the duty holder had been reckless.
Principals Federation president Denise Torrey agrees teachers should be safe from punishment if they follow good procedures.
But she said the mere possibility of stiff penalties could have a chilling effect.
There can be a vast gulf between legislative intent and what winds up happening in practice: just look at the idiocy around Worksafe's implementation of procedures around scaffolding.

If a Worksafe pedant thinks you, the principal, haven't been quite diligent enough in setting and documenting procedures, you could be in the hook for unspecified bad stuff. The monetary fines would be part of it, but the damning of the school's management in the Worksafe report would be at least as bad.

Maybe if you fight it through the courts, you could get back to that you were compliant with the intent of the legislation and that it's Worksafe that's proven overzealous. But the damage would already be done. And so the natural risk-averse outcome among principals is to limit the risk by wrecking much of what makes New Zealand great: a generally free-range approach to kids.

I don't know why National imagines that this won't happen.

Well, maybe it's the long-game. If Labour wins in 2017, they'll get to fulminate in 2020 against the horrible Worksafe bureaucrats who, under Labour, wrecked the playgrounds and pushed us towards a nanny-state. And pretend that none of it was their own fault.

Also, any legislation resulting in secret evidence preventing defendants from seeing the evidence against them is absolutely absurd.

Isn't it better to hold things off for a few months and get this right?

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