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Frontline Health And Safety Inspectors Dismayed By System

6 November 2012

Frontline Health And Safety Inspectors Dismayed By System failures

The Public Service Association says frontline health and safety inspectors are warning that if the lessons of Pike River are to be learned, professional leadership is needed to build both staff and public confidence in the system.

The Royal Commission into the Pike River tragedy has highlighted systemic failures within the former Department of Labour. It states that the mine inspectors’ workloads were formidable and the Department failed to resource, manage and adequately support a diminished mining inspectorate.

“Our inspector members have the deepest sympathy for those families affected by the disaster and feel dismayed by the system failures,” says PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott.

“What makes it even more difficult for them is that their repeated warnings to the Department about lack of capacity and requests for extra resources were ignored.”

Frontline health and safety inspectors have been operating at the sharp end of a deregulated environment, been through numerous restructurings and seen their capacity steadily decreased.

About ten years ago there were 175 health and safety inspectors compared to just 125 today. New Zealand also falls well short of an International Labour Organisation convention which the government is a signatory to. It states there should be one inspector per 10,000 workers – it is estimated that New Zealand’s ratio is less than 0.7 per 10,000 workers.

Brenda Pilott says frontline inspectors are welcoming the Royal Commission recommendation to establish a stand-alone department focussed solely on health and safety as an opportunity to effect some meaningful and much-needed change.

“They feel there is not enough professional health and safety expertise and industry experience at higher levels of management and that was confirmed by the Royal Commission.”

“Any move to a new health and safety agency needs to include strong professional leadership which results in a well-funded, well-resourced, well-trained, and well-staffed inspectorate,” she says.

“There are some big lessons out of the Royal Commission report but health and safety inspectors feel they will be wasted if we don’t foster a system which both staff and the public can have faith in.”


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