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Employers pick up challenge of workplace illness

Employers pick up challenge of workplace illness

- 10 times worse than accidental workplace injury

Employers are picking up the initial report from late last year saying disease in the workplace could be 10 times more serious than workplace injuries, and re-directing the issues raised back at Government.

The Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says the OSH division of the Department of Labour dropped the ball on workplace disease and focused virtually all its attention on workplace safety.

For the past 20 years very few resources have been devoted to understanding and preventing New Zealand workplace illnesses, said Paul Jarvie, EMA’s Manager of Workplace Health & Safety.

“OSH has focused almost exclusively on workplace safety, including punitive new laws for not identifying workplace hazards,” Mr Jarvie said.

“In the quest for making workplaces perfectly safe, they ignored some potentially serious health hazards entirely. The NOHSAC* report from late last year said these hazards were estimated to be responsible for between 700 to 1000 deaths each year, 10 times more than from fatal workplace accidents.

“It Is not uncommon for an OSH inspector to bypass compeltey a chemical process/exposure and head straight for a loose machine guard.

“The Health & Safety in Employment Act by default has put a cleaver between safety from injuries that can be easily detected, while ignoring the more serious but difficult area of identifying and managing a healthy workplace.

“Medical professionals too, who pledge to treat and prevent disease are given minimal training on occupational health, with all their focus on treatment, not prevention.

“Engineers who design and build plant and equipment need as well to factor in the human exposures their processing sites and systems may be prone to.

“Employers intend being pro active in managing the issues raised by the NOHSAC report, and will seek to enlist employees’ participation.

“They want to work with Government and the other professions involved to address these issues.

“Government’s role should be to facilitate and co-ordinate these discussions, and later integrate practical responses to these issues.

“The discussion we are hosting next week – the 9th Annual Workplace Health and Safety conference – is a starting point. ( for details)

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