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Call for action to reduce workplace deaths

Call for action to reduce workplace deaths

The Department of Labour is calling on all businesses and workers to make health and safety improvements in the workplace a key priority this year. This follows workplace deaths investigated by the Department of Labour rising to 65 in the year ended June 2006.

“One workplace death is one too many. The tragedy is that many of these fatalities are preventable,” Department of Labour Workplace deputy secretary Andrew Annakin said today.

“New Zealand workplaces have been making valuable improvements in health and safety - we want to see that momentum continued. We don’t want to see complacency setting in.”

Until 2005-06, the number of workplace deaths had been progressively reducing. The Department of Labour investigated 73 workplace deaths in 2001-02 and 73 in 2002-03, reducing to 62 in 2003-04 and down again to 47 in 2004-05.

“The downward trend was particularly pleasing as it occurred against a backdrop of large employment growth in New Zealand over the past six years. The workforce grew by 316,000 people between March 2000 and March 2006 – an increase in the workforce of 18 per cent,” Mr Annakin said.

There are a range of things workplaces – employers and employees - have been doing to improve workplace health and safety. This includes training health and safety representatives so they can make a difference in individual workplaces – with more than 15,000 trained in the past three years with support from the Council of Trade Unions and ACC. Workplaces have also been developing best practice guidelines for their own industries, and innovative new systems to make their workplaces safer.

Excellent examples include construction and roading firm Fulton Hogan, which introduced a new method of storing and decanting hydrochloric acid so workers are not exposed to acid mist. The initiative involved staff, and improved productivity and employee health. Another example is Hawkins Construction, which introduced a Leadership in Safety initiative, linking workplace safety management with productivity and product quality.

Looking forward, government and employer and worker groups have committed to work together on a nationwide workplace health and safety strategy, aimed at making permanent improvements in health and safety.

“Improving health and safety not only makes workplaces safer for staff and saves lives, but also has business benefits. Businesses should not view good health and safety systems as a cost or impediment but as an investment,” Mr Annakin said.

“The death or injury of a worker can have a massive cost, both human and financial. This includes the loss of productivity through lost skills and experience, effects on staff morale and confidence, and possible fines. The loss of loved ones, the suffering of family and friends, and the wider social impacts are immeasurable,” Mr Annakin said.

Mr Annakin said a disturbing feature of the 2005-06 workplace fatalities was the number of vehicles and machinery crashing or overturning. Simple precautions can save lives, such as using rollover protective structures and seatbelts on tractors and other farm vehicles, or wearing approved helmets on farm bikes and all terrain vehicles (ATVs). Projects are underway to spread this message.

The 65 victims in 2005-06 ranged in age from two to 92. All but five were men. Three were visitors or bystanders to a workplace, and 11 were self-employed.
“This helps put a human picture on these tragedies. We should not forget among the statistics that each of these victims is someone’s relative, friend, workmate or employee,” Mr Annakin said.

Background information follows. For more details, go to the Department of Labour website at: www.osh.dol.govt.nz/resources/stats/fatals/index.shtml
For more information contact Ali Tocker, Senior Communications Advisor, Department of Labour, on 04 915 4150 or 027 452 6242

Background information: 2005-06 Workplace fatalities
The figures below reflect only workplace deaths arising from accidents at work investigated by the Department of Labour. Some workplace deaths may be investigated by other agencies such as Maritime New Zealand or the Civil Aviation Authority, and some may not be notified at all. Deaths from occupational illness are not included in these figures. Also note: from 2003-04, the Department figures began covering all deaths at workplaces – including visitors and bystanders to a workplace – rather than deaths of workers only.
Fatalities by region (previous two years in brackets):
Northland: 6 (6, 7). Auckland: 12 (6, 10). Waikato: 6 (2, 5). Tauranga-Western Bay of Plenty: 1 (2, 5). Taupo-Eastern Bay of Plenty: 4 (2, 5)
Taranaki: 0 (3, 1). Hawkes Bay-East Coast: 5 (3, 5). Manawatu-Whanganui: 4 (3, 3). Hutt-Wairarapa: 2 (1, 1). Wellington-Kapiti: 4 (1, 1). Nelson-Marlborough: 2 (3, 4). Canterbury-West Coast: 12 (8, 11). Otago: 4 (4, 3)
Southland: 3 (3, 1).
2005-06 Fatalities by type of work (previous two years in brackets):
Industrial/commercial: 26 (16, 30). Agriculture: 17 (24, 15). Construction: 14 (5, 6). Forestry: 7 (1, 9). Mining/quarrying: 1 (1, 2)

Industrial/commercial
This category covers fatalities in a wide variety of activities, ranging from trucking, cleaning, factory and wharf work to retail and healthcare work. Industrial and commercial workplaces were the scene of most fatal accidents in 2005-06, with 26 deaths. The most common causes were being crushed by machinery or equipment, and falls from height.

Agriculture
Agriculture, which accounted for 24 fatal accidents in 2004-05, recorded 17 deaths to the end of June 2006. Vehicle and machinery rollovers were the most typical accident, with 12 deaths resulting from workers being run over or crushed.

Construction
Construction recorded a large increase in fatalities over the previous year, against a backdrop of continued strong jobs growth in this sector. Fourteen workers were killed in 2005-06, compared with five in 2004-05. Falls from height were responsible for seven deaths, machinery rollovers accounted for four deaths, and two men were electrocuted.

Forestry
Seven forestry workers lost their lives in the year to June 2006, compared with one the previous year. Crushing injuries were responsible for five of the deaths.

Mining/quarrying
One fatal accident in the mining industry was recorded in 2005-06 – the first mining fatality in four years.

Ends

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