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Work Pressure and Long Hours Undermine Safety at Work

26 November 2012

Work Pressure and Long Hours Undermine Safety at Work

CTU is calling for increased powers for health and safety representatives, supporting the Royal Commission’s recommendation for a new Crown Entity, calling for a more prescriptive and robust health and safety legislative framework with worker participation at the centre and renewing calls for stronger penalties such as corporate manslaughter in its submission to the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety today.

CTU President Helen Kelly says “Pike River has been a tragic exhibition of the failure of a de-regulated health and safety legislative framework. We need a more clearly prescribed law and we need to change the cost element of requirements around ‘all practicable steps’. Costs should not outweigh health and safety unless they are grossly disproportionate to the improvements in health and safety that can be achieved. This is the test that is used in Australia.”

“We need to put workers at the centre of our approach to health and safety; health and safety workplace reps need to have the power to issue Improvement Notices and we need Health and Safety Advisors in our workplaces.”

“CTU conducted an in-depth survey of over 1200 health and safety representatives to help inform our submission and recommendations. The findings and statements from people who work on the front line of health and safety in New Zealand show we need to take a serious look at the way we treat health and safety in New Zealand” said Helen Kelly.

“13 percent of people reported being bullied for raising a health and safety issue at work. Of those who reported being bullied, 45 percent were bullied by management, and 41 percent were bullied by co-workers. This is unacceptable. We need to change our cultural attitude towards health and safety, we need to get to a place where it’s okay to raise concerns about health and safety at work without fear of repercussions and bullying and in the knowledge that concerns will be taken seriously.”

Helen Kelly says “nearly 60 percent of respondents reported that taking short cuts contributed to illness or injury at their workplace. When workers are under pressure to perform tasks at speed, or feel pressured to meet production targets, they can feel forced to take shortcuts and put themselves and their workmates at risk. Workplaces and companies that put profit over safety have got to change their priorities. We need to make worker safety the priority.”

“49 percent of the respondents reported fatigue and working long hours as a contributor to illness or injury at work. Workers working long hours, late shifts or more than one job are all contributing factors to our shocking injury statistics. We need to support our workers to be safe at work; part of this is paying a decent, living wage that so that workers can afford not to have to work all hours of the day just to get by,” said Helen Kelly.

“We are supporting the Royal Commission’s recommendation for a new Crown Entity, but that new entity needs to be tripartite in order for it to be effective. We know that unions play a strong role in health and safety – and our survey shows that union members have more experience as health and safety representatives: 53 percent of health and safety reps who are union members have served more than 3 years versus 37 percent for non-union members. A worker voice needs to be at the heart of health and safety in New Zealand.”

CTU Submission to the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety
Report on survey
In their own words: Individual responses to the Survey
Further information on survey results


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