Willie Jackson Speech notes on HSE Bill
Speech notes for first reading of
Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill
Willie Jackson, Alliance MP
The Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill is another step in the right direction for this government. Step by step we are strengthening legislation to give back the rights and protections, which rightfully belong to workers around the country. The Employment Relations Act was the first step, the Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation Bill was the second and this Bill is the third.
Hundreds of New Zealanders die every year from work related injury or illness. This is a tragedy that just can't continue. While the total cost to the country is around $3 billion dollars, the cost to families and friends is even greater. This bill plays an essential part of stopping these tragedies from occurring.
Workers know when equipment and systems on the job are unsafe. They are the ones who suffer and they are the ones who pay in the end. One of the most valuable parts of this Bill is to include workers in the management of health and safety in their workplaces. Their concerns must not be allowed to go unheard any more. Workers will now be able to have their very own health and safety representative and in bigger workplaces, they will be able to have a health and safety committee.
Their representatives will be able to get training twice a year which will assist them in working out what practical solutions may be possible to dangerous situations encountered on the job.
The Alliance and Mana Motuhake support all work to make people's workplaces safer. Our policy on Health and Safety, recommends the establishment of workplace health and safety committees with worker representation to oversee work practises and participate in the making of relevant decisions. It is great to see this policy being developed in this Bill.
We also will be promoting incentives for reporting non-compliance with health and safety regulations and the consideration of how shift patterns affect workers. There is much research around on shift patterns that can be drawn upon to enhance the select committee's consideration of this bill.
Workers must not have their health and safety jeopardised by poor working conditions. The case of the Bridgestone Firestone's Papanui plant this year, has been very instructive. 30 year old Adam Hopkins was seriously injured and died in an accident at the plant partly because emergency systems were not working and therefore were totally inadequate according to the union working on the case.
The mill room where Adam worked was the most dangerous in the factory and it had emergency systems set up but they were not working. There was a beeper system to raise an emergency rescue team. It didn't work. The locker with emergency equipment in it was locked and couldn't be opened. In the days following Adam's tragic death, the union went to test the emergency system and found it still didn't work and emergency equipment had been removed from the locker. The workers would not go back to work until they believed it was safe again.
It is a very sad indictment on a company when it takes a death to sort out their health and safety issues. Thankfully, the workers and management at Firestone have now worked out an effective solution.
This Bill will raise the fines on Companies involved in dangerous work practices. Firestone were to be fined up to $75,000 for the death Adam Hopkins, and earlier in the year Tranzrail was fined $50,000 for its part in the death of Christchurch railway worker Neil Faithful. In July, the Nelson Dive Centre was fined $75,000 after conviction relating to a fatal scuba diving accident in the Marlborough Sounds. This doesn't sound a lot when it involves someone's life does it?
This Bill increases the amount a company can be fined to a maximum of $500,000. I hope this increases everyone's incentive to provide safe work environments.
All workers and management are encouraged in this Bill, to consider health and safety issues and alert management, unions and the occupational health and safety organisation of any concerns they have.
Everyone has the right to a healthy and safe working environment. Hence I am pleased to be able to give a short speech on the introduction of this bill and commend the Minister on it.