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International Workers’ Memorial Day

International Workers’ Memorial Day

International Workers’ Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have lost their lives at work.

Labour Minister Margaret Wilson says the Government has taken significant steps to improve workplace health and safety, and she is hopeful the workplace death toll will drop as new measures take effect.

“The cost of workplace accidents is too high, both personally for the families and businesses involved, and financially for the country as a whole,” Margaret Wilson said. “One study on the cost of injury estimated the economic and social cost to New Zealand imposed by injury is in the region of $7 billion per annum.”

In a move to improve New Zealand’s workplace injury record, the amendment to the Health and Safety in Employment Act comes into effect next Monday (May 5). It provides employers, workers and unions with the tools to systematically review, eliminate and manage workplace risks. The major changes are:

An extension of the coverage of the Act to new sectors Provision for employee participation and health and safety training A range of new interventions available to Occupational Safety and Health inspectors and health and safety representatives to raise and resolve safety issues.

The Occupational Safety and Health Service (OSH) has already investigated 56 workplace deaths in the year since 1 July. However, this represents just one part of the total number of workplace deaths. Statistics New Zealand has recently appointed an Injury Information Manager, with the aim of combining all the available injury information so that a more comprehensive system of monitoring and preventing injuries can be put in place.

The Government has also established a Ministerial Inquiry into the management of certain hazardous substances, including the chemical glutaraldehyde, other aldehydes, and solvents. The inquiry is investigating the management of those substances in workplaces, primarily in the health sector, the printing industry and the manufacturing sector.

The Inquiry has held hearings around the country and will submit its final report to the Minister by 30 May.

“The responsibility to make workplaces safe cannot be taken lightly, and employers, employees and unions now need to work together to bring the workplace death toll down,” Margaret Wilson said.

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