New Zealand Injury figures show health and safety policy needs to change

Disgraceful injury figures show health and safety policy needs to change

The Council of Trade Unions president, Helen Kelly, welcomes the Health and Safety Taskforce's release of an Issues Paper today. The paper identifies important areas of policy that require change in order to improve New Zealand's appalling workplace death and injury rates. 

The CTU believes that all New Zealand families have an interest in the way workplace health and safety is supported and the CTU strongly encourages people to contact the Taskforce with their experience and ideas.

The CTU welcomes a broad review of the health and safety system as New Zealand's current legislation and workplace culture is failing to protect working people.

"It's a disgrace that on average 100 people per year are killed at work. If there is something all New Zealanders would agree on it is that every worker who leaves home at the start of their working day should return home safe and healthy. This is a fundamental starting point."

"We have five times the rate of workplace injury in NZ than that of the UK. Over 6,000 New Zealanders make notifications about serious harm in their workplace each year. The issues paper asks why this might be and what is needed to stop this including considering the role of government, employers, unions and workers as well as the adequacy of the legislation.  The CTU believes this must lead to improvements in the size, skills and powers of labour inspectors alongside improved regulatory powers and increased worker participation."

Any reform of the health and safety system must be bold enough to bolster the inspectorate and tackle the real issues of work arrangements, the structure of work, the regulatory framework, and proper employee participation. The issue of employee participation is an essential component that needs strengthening from the review. While union membership enables worker representation and participation, even in unionised sites, health and safety representatives report difficulty raising safety issues, and the issue of having a voice for non-unionised workers is even greater and the review needs to be creative in finding a solution for this.”

"One thing we see overseas for example is access for workers to independent advice by way of a system of roving worker representatives who assist all workers with health and safety issues."

"The Taskforce, and ultimately the Government, needs to make recommendations that rebalance the system so that health and safety is a priority within business and those that take it seriously are not undermined by those that take risks to gain competitive advantage. This will require strong regulations, standard setting and enforcement and decent investment in the people on whom health and safety depends - the workers."

The Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety releases its consultation document today, outlining what it sees as the key issues impacting on our ability to create safer workplaces. Anyone seeking to make a submission can do so online at Submissions close Friday November 16th 2012.

16 September 2012