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Invest to protect our greatest asset – people

Invest to protect our greatest asset – people

2 July 2004

The Occupational Safety and Health Service investigated 61 workplace deaths in the year to 30 June 2004. This includes the deaths of 13 bystanders or visitors to workplaces.

This year’s provisional final figure of 61 fatalities is in line with numbers in recent years (2001-02: 73 fatalities, 2002-03: 73 fatalities). However, the number of fatalities investigated by OSH is not an accurate or reasonable indicator of trends over time, nor are they an accurate guide to levels of safety in the workplace.

“Anyone who knows statistics will tell you that yearly counts like this don’t really mean that much in a statistical sense,” says OSH National Operations Manager Mike Cosman.

Rather than looking at the figures as a yardstick, he says, it is better to see them as a reminder about the social value of working safely.

“We hear a lot of that cliché that people are our greatest asset, yet some people still look at health and safety as a cost.

“The simple message is that people are enormously valuable: to their families, their workmates and the community, and also to the workplace economy.”

The death or injury of a worker can have a massive financial cost, of which possible fines are a small component. The loss of productivity through the person’s lost skills and experience, and the negative effect on the wider workforce are only some of the downstream consequences.

The message everyone in the workplace community should take from OSH’s fatality figures is simple says Cosman: “People really are our most precious asset – so let’s invest in their protection. It will pay dividends, and save lives.”

Fatalities by type of work Industrial / commercial 28
Forestry 9
Construction 7
Agriculture 15
Mines and Quarries 2

Data limitations These figures reflect only the workplace deaths investigated by OSH, which are deaths arising from sudden incidents. Deaths from occupational illness are not included in this figure. Not all sudden workplace deaths are investigated by OSH: some may not be notified at all, others are the province of other agencies such as the Maritime Safety Authority or Civil Aviation Authority.

Statistics New Zealand has reported 87 work-related deaths for the year to 31 March 2004. These figures cover a different period to those reported by OSH and also include deaths that are outside OSH's jurisdiction.


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