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Workplace Health And Safety Targets Grossly Inadequate


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Workplace Health And Safety Targets Grossly Inadequate In The Light Of Pike River Findings

The government’s target of reducing workplace deaths and serious injuries by 25% by 2020 looks woefully inadequate in the light of the findings of the Pike River Royal Commission said Steve Vaughan, Executive Director NZ Society for Risk Management, today.

The Royal Commission’s finding that “The Department of Labour did not have the focus, capacity or strategies to ensure that Pike was meeting its legal responsibilities under health and safety laws” is a damming indictment of the state of New Zealand’s health and safety system, he went on. Setting a target of a 25% change, illustrates not only a failure to grasp just how poor New Zealand’ workplace safety record is, but also a frightening lack of vision. What is really required is a big step up in expectations supported by a fundamental change in the way all aspects of health and safety are regulated. This means changing the whole system from the top down starting with a focus on properly understanding and managing workplace risks. This should replace the present dated process of cataloguing workplace hazards without regard to the actual level of risk.

The evidence to the Royal Commission shows that Pike River Coal did plenty of this cataloguing, what they were supposed to do under the law, Vaughan says. The Department of Labour saw this and “assumed that Pike was complying with the law, even though there was ample evidence to the contrary” as Royal Commission’s report says.

We all know what happened. 29 good men died in what was a repeat of what the Commission calls “a failure to learn”.

Instead, we must learn and change the systems so that risk is properly understood and everyone involved is empowered to do the things needed to control these risks. Also, that those ultimately responsible for the management of risk – the Board, must carry some accountability for worker safety.

The government has already set up a taskforce to consider workplace health and safety. The taskforce needs to be given ambitious targets and a clean sheet of paper to rebuild the whole workplace health and safety system, focussing on empowering all those in the workplace to understands and manage risks.

It’s not hard, the Taskforce’s own discussion document shows that the UK and Australia are busy changing their systems to manage workplace risks and this same discussion document shows that they are already getting results with significantly lower workplace fatalities.


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