Research shows skill gaps put New Zealand employees at risk

New health and safety research shows skill gaps put New Zealand employees at risk.

A New Zealand study has found that most employees are being put at risk because they don't fully understand their workplace's health and safety information, documentation, and paperwork.

The researchers say this has significant implications for regulators and employers' efforts to keep people safer while at work, as outlined in the recently released WorkingSafer blueprint.Every year more than 200 000 New Zealanders are seriously harmed and more than 100 are killed in workplace accidents.

Workbase's Chief Executive Katherine Percy says the study's findings have serious implications for workplace safety. 'The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's recent Independent Taskforce Report on Workplace Health and Safety identified low literacy and poor communication skills as being an issue, particularly in higher risk workplaces, and our study backs this up.

'The study suggests that employers could be doing more to ensure that employees understand the specific health and safety processes and policies that they are expected to follow. It is difficult – if not impossible – to engage employees in health and safety if they can't understand the information they are being given.'

The study's findings suggest that little will be achieved by providing employees with more health and safety information or guidance documents, or by increasing hazard and incident reporting requirements.

Reducing New Zealand's workplace accident and death rates requires a higher priority to be placed on making health and safety documentation easier to understand. This is important because the study showed clearly that many firms have modelled their in-house health and safety documents on the formal language provided in official government documents.

→ View the research [PDF 364KB] ( or visit the Workbase website (

Summarised from a Workbase media release, 19 August 2013.

Published in consumer and occupational safety.