Minister plans renewed health and safety focus

A review of New Zealand's Workplace Health and Safety Strategy has identified key areas where work is needed to reduce workplace deaths and accidents, says Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson.

“I have been concerned at the toll in our workplaces and last year's fatalities report along with this review serve to highlight that we need to work harder with high risk industries, notably construction, agriculture and forestry,” Ms Wilkinson says.

The 10 year strategy was launched in 2005 and Cabinet decided then that there should be a review after three years' operation to determine effectiveness and any change required to ensure the strategy continues to be relevant and effective.

“The review is clear in that we are doing a lot of things well and progress is being made, but more needs to be done at ground level.

“In five months late last year, for example, there were nine deaths in the construction industry, one more than the entire 12 month period before. Four of these deaths were from falls.

“While the construction industry has significantly improved its safety performance, we need to work closer with all the sub-sectors of commercial, civil and residential construction.

“Part of the focus will be to ensure greater communication and co-ordination with industry bodies and small businesses, so that workplaces are aware of the causes of harm and do not repeat the same mistakes.

“The construction, agriculture and forestry industries already have successful practical initiatives in place and I will be overseeing the development of a new set of actions that aims to assist them to take this work further.”

There were 6141 serious harm incidents notified in 2009, slightly less than in 2008, with the toll hovering above or around the 6000 mark for the past five years.

The strategy review is available on the Department of Labour's website http://www.whss.govt.nz/review/review-report.shtml.

Reprinted from a New Zealand Government press release, 29 January 2010.

Published in consumer and occupational safety.