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Review Of Health And Safety In Employment Law

Friday, 7 July 2000


The Minister of Labour, the Hon Margaret Wilson has announced the details of the government's plans to review the Health and Safety in Employment legislation.

These laws affect everyone who runs a business, works for pay, or ever enters a workplace of any kind.

Ms Wilson told the Council of Trade Unions safer workplaces conference today that the Employment Relations Bill would create a new workplace environment which will contribute to improved health and safety.

"But other legislative and policy initiatives will also be needed to help reduce death, injury, misery and loss created by unsafe places, equipment, and practices" said Ms Wilson.

"In the June year just ended OSH investigated the deaths of 57 New Zealanders who lost their lives at work. Not all deaths fall under OSH’s jurisdiction and the true workplace death toll is likely to be closer to 160. In the same year OSH was also notified of more than 4,300 serious injuries. These were only serious reported accidents. In the previous year there were 29,000 individual claims against the ACC employers account.

"A conservative estimate of the financial cost of in the 1998/99-year is $3.18 billion.

Ms Wilson says the review is part of a wider programme. She said the government would:

 Soon complete a review of ACC which will encourage and help business to put in place health and safety management system.

 Support the Employment Relations Bill, which, by recognising the valuable role of unions in workplace communication is itself an important health and safety measure. If workers have a voice business are protected from errors in management which contribute to unsafe work practices. This makes it easier for employers to meet their legal responsibility to provide safe workplaces.

 Review the Health and Safety in Employment Act to improve employee involvement, ensure consistent health and safety standards in the workplace and examine the law to see it needs strengthening to enforce health and safety.

"I expect there will be particular interest by in the plans to Review the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

"At present employees are covered by differing levels of health and safety regulatory protection depending on where they work. The recent spate of deaths of Tranzrail employees has highlighted one area where this is the case. The review of the Act will also look at the areas of aircrew and maritime workers.

"I also believe that no matter what incentives and support are offered to businesses there will always be a need for an enforcement regime. The review will look at whether the Act can, or should include spot fines, whether the level of fines under the Act is high enough and whether OSH’s sole right to prosecute under the Act should be extended to others.

"To ensure the most effective end result of the review, input from employer and employee organisations will be crucial. I have asked OSH to consult widely so that the Government’s decisions will be based on the best information available. The review will be completed this year. We must move quickly to a culture which does not tolerate any workplace death or serious injury. The review must be completed as soon as possible".


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