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Workplace health and safety report shows way

8 November 2004 Media Statement

Workplace health and safety report shows way forward

A new report highlights the serious nature of occupational health and safety issues, Associate Labour Minister Ruth Dyson said today.

Launching ‘The Burden of Occupational Disease and Injury in New Zealand’ - the first report of the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee - Ms Dyson welcomed its findings and said the government would give them careful consideration.

“The report shows that occupational diseases are killing and harming far more New Zealanders each year than occupational injuries. There are an estimated 100 deaths a year from occupational injury compared with 700-1000 deaths from occupational disease - most notably cancer, respiratory disorders and heart disease.”

Ruth Dyson said it was often harder to prove the link between health issues in the workplace than occupational injuries.

“Diseases like cancer, respiratory disorders and heart disease often take a long time to develop and can have multiple causes. The effects might not be felt until after the person has moved on to a different job or retired from paid work. However, this should not stop us from facing up to the challenges presented by occupational health issues.”

Ms Dyson said the figures in the report were based on overseas and New Zealand data, and there was a lack of information about occupational health issues in this country.

“We simply don’t know how many people die from work-related illness each year in New Zealand. This is unacceptable. The report is an important starting-point to gather the information we need to develop effective policies and practices for workplace health and safety.”

Ruth Dyson said the government had already begun to address some of the report’s recommendations.

“Occupational diseases such as cancer, respiratory disease, musculoskeletal disease and fatigue are currently targeted through the priorities in OSH’s current business plan and in the government’s draft Workplace Health and Safety Strategy for New Zealand to 2015.

“In this year’s budget, we also allocated additional funding of $3.1m over four years for occupational health and safety, which will have a strong focus on health research.”

Ms Dyson said she was committed to seeing occupational health and safety services strengthened, and wanted to see more occupational health practitioners employed in the field.

- The National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee (NOHSAC) was established in July 2003 to provide independent, contestable advice to the Minister of Labour on major occupational health and safety issues in New Zealand. The chairperson is Professor Neil Pearce from the Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University.

- Copies of the 239-page report, ‘The Burden of Occupational Disease and Injury in New Zealand’, and a summary version, are available by phoning NOHSAC (04) 915 4463 or 027 660 7807, or at www.nohsac.govt.nz under ‘reports’.

ENDS

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