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Decision proves urgency of health and safety reforms

July 4, 2013

CTU Media Release

High Court decision proves urgency of health and safety reforms

A High Court decision that those in charge of a business can escape responsibility for workplace safety shows the urgent need for stronger health and safety laws, says the Council of Trade Unions.

The CTU is calling for the full implementation of the Health & Safety Taskforce recommendations, which are currently under consideration by the Government.

CTU president Helen Kelly says the High Court decision will make work in New Zealand more dangerous unless the law is changed.

“New Zealand workers are being put at risk by a system that allows companies to contract out their work and with it their health and safety obligations.

“This decision will only make work more dangerous. We are not going to improve our appalling rate of workplace deaths and injuries so long as employers are allowed to simply outsource responsibility for the health and safety of their staff.”

Helen Kelly says contracting out of health and safety is prevalent in some of our most dangerous industries, including construction.

“Most of the construction work in the country is contracted then sub-contracted by the large construction firms because the incentives are significant. The big construction firms can play contractors off against each other and dispense with any obligations to their staff.

“The law needs to recognise that when a company gets a job and contracts out the work then it must retain responsibility for all workers at the workplace. Without this, sub-contracting simply becomes the easy way out and it’s workers and their families who pay the price.

“The Taskforce recommended a new legal regime based on the Australian Model Law where the ‘person in charge of the business’ has the primary responsibility for health and safety and liability where duties are breached.

“This is an essential change that New Zealand workers deserve and that will make them safer at work. This change has been supported by unions and business and must now be adopted by Government as a matter of urgency.”


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