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Call for Action on Crisis of Workplace Illness

11 May 2005

Call for Action on Crisis of Workplace Illness

The country is facing a crisis of occupational disease and many will continue to die from work-related illness unless better systems are put in place, Council of Trade Unions president Ross Wilson said today.

The Government has announced funding of $730,000 to improve occupational health in workplaces. It will allow the Department of Labour to start to upgrade systems for reporting and measuring occupational disease.

Last year’s report from the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee found that data collected in New Zealand was inadequate to document the size of the problem of work-related disease and injury, let alone suggest and enable solutions.

Using what data was available, plus information gathered overseas, the report estimated up to 1,000 deaths per year from occupational disease, particularly cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease. It also estimated up to 20,000 new cases of work-related disease each year.

“The report found that nobody knows exactly how many people die from work-related causes each year and that more than 80 per cent of work-related deaths - most due to illness rather than injury - are not documented, reported or investigated,” Ross Wilson said.

“Until this work is done it is difficult to find ways to deal with the problems affecting workers’ health.

“Today’s announcement is welcome news for workers and the funding will make a start on the huge job ahead of us to ensure all workplaces are healthy and safe,” Ross Wilson said.

ENDS

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