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Healthy workers makes good business sense

28 April 2005
Media Statement

Healthy workers makes good business sense

New Zealand’s strong economy can continue to prosper if better workplace health and safety practices are adopted, Associate Minister of Labour Ruth Dyson said today.

Marking today’s International Workers Memorial Day, which is commemorated around the world on 28 April, Ms Dyson said the benefits of excellent health and safety practices were numerous, and employers who neglected them did so at their own peril - and the peril of their workforce.

“Right around the country, business is booming. Unemployment is at rock bottom, company profits are high, and labour is in demand. It’s this current demand on our workforce that makes the need for good workplace health and safety practices more acute than ever.”

At a time when New Zealand needed fit and healthy, high-performing workers more than ever before, employers couldn’t afford to have people killed, injured or made sick at work, she said.

“We need their skills, labour and experience, and we need them to be working and producing. In the long run, the fence at the top of the cliff is not just smarter, it’s a lot cheaper than the ambulance at the bottom.”

Ms Dyson said businesses that adopted positive approaches to health and safety, and which involved employees in formulating good health and safety practices, reported fewer accidents and injuries, and higher workplace productivity.

She said last year’s release of the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council (NOHSAC) report into the burden of occupational injury and illness confirmed that the cost of occupational illness and injury was huge.

The estimated cost of the deaths, injuries and illnesses caused by occupational disease and injury in New Zealand is between $4.3 billion and $8.7 billion a year.

“Employers have a direct incentive to keep workers healthy, so that their own individual businesses prosper, and as a country, the financial imperative is overwhelming.”

Ms Dyson said the social and emotional costs of workplace deaths were immeasurable.

“The death of just one worker creates an enormous ripple effect, reaching out and affecting family and friends, workmates and employers. Eventually, every member of the community is touched in some way.”

She urged businesses to treat health and safety at work as a pathway to increased productivity, profitability and competitiveness, “not just today – International Workers Memorial Day – but every day”.

ENDS

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