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System for reducing workplace injuries recommended

24 October 2006

Surveillance and Control of Workplace Exposures in New Zealand

New report recommends system for reducing workplace diseases and injuries

A new report stresses the importance of an effective ‘surveillance system’ for
improving New Zealand’s performance in preventing work-related diseases and

Commissioned by the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee
(NOHSAC), the report states that the overriding goal of any workplace health and
safety system is to prevent occupational diseases and injuries. This reflects the fact that, in New Zealand each year, 700 to 1,000 people die from work-related diseases,100 people die from injuries received at work, there are 20,000 new cases of work-related diseases and injuries, and 200,000 people are injured at work.

“This is a huge and unacceptable burden for New Zealand, and we must act to
address it,” says NOHSAC Chair Professor Neil Pearce. “Surveillance – that is,
collecting, analysing and interpreting data and using it for preventive and control purposes – is an important first step.”

The new report builds on and complements a previous NOHSAC report, Surveillance
of occupational disease and injury in New Zealand, which recommended a major
emphasis on measuring workplace diseases and injuries. The report suggested that
this surveillance be integrated with ‘exposure surveillance’ and ‘exposure control system surveillance’ – with the term ‘exposure’ relating to hazards and risk factors such as environmental, technological, organisational, human and other factors that contribute to occupational injury and disease.

“While it’s vital that we have a system to record the number of work-related deaths and cases of work-related diseases and injuries in New Zealand, this doesn’t really address their causes,” says Professor Neil Pearce. “Identifying and acting on the workplace exposures and hazards behind these diseases and injuries, as well as the controls in place, is just as important.

”Unfortunately, as the report reveals, New Zealand lacks any system for collecting workforce or workplace exposure data. This means we can’t undertake accurate risk assessments for workplace diseases, develop effective prevention policies and activities, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions or identify occupational safety


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