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Major Flaws In OHS Materials Identified

NOHSAC press release: 16 July 2008

Review of the Key Characteristics that Determine the Efficacy of OHS Instruments

A new report identifies significant flaws in the materials supplied to businesses to help them develop and manage effective occupational health and safety (OHS) systems.

The Review of the Key Characteristics that Determine the Efficacy of OHS Instruments was commissioned by the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee (NOHSAC) in conjunction with the Australian Safety and Compensation Council.

The first of its kind ever undertaken, the review analysed the range of resources supplied to businesses, including approved codes of practice and guidance materials. The subsequent report is based on an extensive international literature review, detailed interviews and questionnaires, and an online survey of users in Australia and New Zealand.

The report concludes that New Zealand’s current regulatory framework lacks a commitment to providing businesses with codes of practice and guidance materials designed to encourage and help ensure compliance and support best practice. As a result, codes of practice are rarely developed and, when they are, can be out of date and inconsistent with industry practice.

NOHSAC Chair, Professor Neil Pearce, says that the Department of Labour (the government’s lead agency for the Workplace Health and Safety Strategy) must take urgent action to remedy the situation.

“The Department is required to provide information and education to help employers, employees and other people to improve workplace safety,” he says.

“We know that businesses, especially small enterprises, don’t have the resources to source this information themselves – and that employers, unions and OHS practitioners are deeply concerned about the lack of workplace support and guidance from government agencies. It’s vital that we do something about this if we’re to reduce the country’s unacceptable rate of work-related illnesses and injuries.”

Professor Pearce calls on the Department of Labour to dedicate additional funding to developing and disseminating up-to-date and relevant advice for workplaces.

“This will help employers not only to comply with their requirements under our health and safety legislation, but also to learn about best practice in identifying and managing hazards, developing training materials and designing workplace facilities.”

Professor Pearce stresses the importance of ensuring that any codes of practice and guidance material are written and designed to be effective for businesses.

“The report identifies a number of key characteristics, including the need for plain language and clear, concise information, as well as practical advice and solutions,” he says. “It’s also important to keep material up to date and relevant, and consider online as well as in-print distribution channels.

“New Zealand is well placed to set an international example for our occupational health and safety performance,” he says. “We simply need more commitment from the government agencies involved, so that together we can achieve the Workplace Health and Safety Strategy’s vision of healthy people in safe and productive workplaces.”


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