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Health And Safety Changes Add To Business Burden

The proposed Health and Safety in Employment Bill will add significantly to the regulatory burden on all businesses and will do little to improve health and safety in the workplace, the New Zealand Business Roundtable (NZBR) said today.

Appearing before the transport and industrial relations select committee today, Roger Kerr, executive director of the NZBR, said the government has not put forward a convincing justification for the Bill's approach to improving health and safety in the workplace ­ more regulation and a greater OSH presence. The Regulatory Impact and Compliance Cost Statement supporting the Bill was of poor quality.

Mr Kerr said that the Bill has the potential to adversely affect economic growth, with a consequent reduction in health and safety in the workplace. "The evidence is clear ­ a wealthier country is a healthier country. If economic growth is impaired, overall health and safety could be reduced², Mr Kerr said.

Mr Kerr said that the proposed changes fail to recognise the powerful role that the private sector can play in improving health and safety in the workplace. "New Zealand has seen big improvements in health and safety both prior to, and since, the passage of the Health and Safety in Employment Act in 1992. While this progress is commendable, more remains to be done. The abolition of a competitive accident insurance market was a setback to safety goals", he said.

Mr Kerr said the existing design of the HSE Act is flawed, but that the changes proposed in the new Bill are likely to make things worse, not better. They are not consistent with the government's goal of significantly improving New Zealand's growth performance. The NZBR is particularly concerned with the Bill's proposal to extend the definitions of harm and hazard to include stress and the removal of ability to insure against fines.

Rather than proceeding with the proposed Bill, Mr Kerr said the government should commission an independent review of the existing Health and Safety in Employment Act to identify ways in which the law could be improved. Any review should extend to identifying weaknesses in other parts of the regulatory framework for health and safety, including the ACC scheme and tort law.

The submission will be available on www.nzbr.org.nz


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