Failing to improve workplace safety | The Jackal

27 May 2013

Failing to improve workplace safety

Earlier this week, an Independent Taskforce released its report into Workplace Health & Safety (PDF) in New Zealand. Although largely another human interest story, it found that:

Each year, around 1 in 10 workers is harmed, with about 200,000 claims being made by people to acc for costs associated with work-related injuries and illnesses.

That's an atrocious record that shows health and safety laws in New Zealand are not adequate. In fact the report states that a lack of proper regulatory oversight is one of the reasons for such an appalling amount of work-related injuries and illnesses.

New Zealand’s health and safety law, and its implementation by the regulator, have failed to deliver the protection from workplace harms that New Zealanders can reasonably expect.

...And the cost to the nation for the governments failure is huge:

Workplace injuries and diseases caused by work-related exposures inflict an enormous emotional toll on individuals and their families. There are also significant economic and social costs to our nation. In 2010 these were estimated to be about $3.5 billion a year – around two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in today’s terms. This is the figure that MBIE accepts is the most reliable. However, costs have been estimated to be as high as $15 billion a year and $21 billion a year, depending on how the costs are measured and the extent to which indirect costs are included.

Economic cost that are a result of uncaring businesses trying to increase their profit margins.

To improve New Zealand's unsafe workplaces, the Independent Taskforce recommends that new legislation be drawn up and that such legislation extend to acute, chronic and catastrophic harm caused by unsafe business practices. It also recommends that corporate enterprises be prosecuted for their failures that lead to widespread harm.

National of course won't like this aspect of the recommendations, being that it flies in the face of their promotion and expansion of dangerous enterprises like mining, fracking and deep sea oil drilling.

We can therefore expect National to drag its heels over many of these recommendations.