Labour Minister Simon Bridges has announced the most significant reform of New Zealand’s workplace health and safety system in 20 years.
“The Working Safer package represents a major step change in New Zealand’s approach to meet our target of reducing the workplace injury and death toll by 25 percent by 2020,” says Mr Bridges.
“The reforms recalibrate our approach so we are working smarter, targeting risk and working together to improve performance in workplace health and safety.
“This is the legacy we owe to the Pike River families, the families of the 75 people who are killed each year in New Zealand workplaces, and the estimated 600 to 900 who die annually from the long-term effects of occupational disease.”
Mr Bridges says Working Safer addresses the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety which provided Government with a solid foundation to work from.
“We will improve the legislation and back it up with clear guidelines and enforcement, and investment in a strong new regulator WorkSafe New Zealand.
“But achieving the target is not something we can do alone. It also requires leadership and action from business and workers, working with government, sharing the responsibility and driving the solutions on the ground.
“Good health and safety makes good business sense. It is an investment in improved productivity, staff engagement and in an organisation’s reputation in the community,” Mr Bridges says.
The rabid anti-business sector doesn’t get this.
Safe businesses are better businesses for people, productivity and profits.
Included in the reform package are:
- an overhaul of the law, supported by clear, consistent guidelines and information for business on their requirements
- more funding for WorkSafe New Zealand to strengthen enforcement and education and implement the changes
- a focus on high risk areas
- stronger focus on occupational harm and hazardous substances
- better coordination between government agencies
- improved worker participation
- stronger penalties, enforcement tools and court powers.
More details on the package here.
BusinessNZ welcomes the changes:
BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said it was a significant step in the right direction.
“Moving to a principles-based regime in which health and safety responses are tailored to the business rather than the current one-size-fits-all approach will be a real help to many businesses, as will a simpler approach to levy setting and other costs.
“We are also pleased to see a heavy emphasis on clarifying responsibilities and on providing information and guidance to businesses and their employees.”
Mr O’Reilly urged that care be taken in finalising the law to avoid unintended consequences. . .
ACC is supportive:
ACC’s Chief Executive, Scott Pickering, says ACC is looking forward to working closely with the new Crown agent ‘WorkSafe New Zealand’. The agency forms the cornerstone of the Government’s response to the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Health and Safety.
“WorkSafe New Zealand will bring a new, sharper focus to the importance of workplace safety, and ACC will provide all the support we can to ensure more Kiwis go home safe and sound at the end of their working day.”
Mr Pickering says he’s very mindful of the important role ACC plays in injury prevention, but he also looks forward to seeing what can be achieved with a more collaborative approach.
“There’s a growing awareness that New Zealand’s high work-related injury rates require united action, with Government agencies, businesses and workers all working together towards the same goal. . .
Forest Owners Association supports the reforms:
“The government has a vital role to play in improving safety in the workplace,” says president Bill McCallum. “It has the power to pull a range of levers that will influence attitudes, understandings and behaviours of all involved.”
He says lax attitudes to safety are prevalent in New Zealand and even with the best will in the world, it is a battle to get safety to be seen as the number one priority by every individual in the workplace.
“What we desperately need is a change in culture at all levels of our society, so that unsafe work practices are rejected as being socially unacceptable. We have seen huge changes in social attitudes to drink driving and tobacco smoking, thanks largely to government support for campaigns addressing those issues.
“We now need the same focus brought to bear on cultural attitudes that portray risk-taking as being acceptable.
“The real game changer will be when we get acceptance from everyone involved – from the boardroom through to the worker in the forest – that we have a collective and personal responsibility for health and safety. This is a responsibility to and by the worker, as well as to their workmates, their families and the businesses they work for.”
The package has also been welcomed by the CTU:
Helen Kelly, CTU President said “the announcements today acknowledge that our health and safety system is in need of an overhaul, and we welcome the direction taken by the Government with these proposed changes.”
“Moves to strengthen worker participation at the workplace are particularly positive and will help keep Kiwi workers safer at work. The inclusion of a general duty to involve and consult with workers on health and safety matters, and strengthen the role of H&S representatives will give workers a voice in how health and safety is handled in their workplace”.
Her only complaint is no worker representative on the Worksafe New Zealand Board.
Even the the Public Service Association: welcomes the reforms, though it too complains that there’s no representative for workers on the Worksafe board.
Work safety is the responsibility of employers and employees, wide support for the reforms from representatives of both is a good start.