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Workplace safety in New Zealand – have we got it right?

Workplace safety in New Zealand – have we got it right?

- The Public Sector Journal looks at the formation of WorkSafe New Zealand

The newly created Crown agent, WorkSafe New Zealand, which starts operating on 16 December, faces a daunting and important task. The recent deaths in the forestry industry serve to underline the task ahead for the new agency.

An article in the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) Public Sector Journal (December issue) asks, can WorkSafe NZ deliver? It looks into the establishment of the agency following recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety, which was itself a response in part to the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster.

The article includes interviews with Gregor Coster, the Chair of the WorkSafe New Zealand Board, Geoffrey Podger, acting Chief Executive of WorkSafe, Glenn Barclay, Council of Trade Unions, Julian Hughes, Executive Director of the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum, and Felicity Lamm, Associate Professor of Employment Relations, Auckland University of Technology.

The article raises important questions about the establishment and functions of WorkSafe New Zealand such as:
· The board was appointed by the Minister – is there a willingness to run the new agency on a tripartite basis, with government, business and unions all playing their part?

· One major issue is the need to boost the number of inspectors – from about 100 now to a target of 200. How will they be appointed and trained without placing undue burden on existing staff?

· Will WorkSafe NZ have the independence and leadership role it should? The policy development on health and safety and the issuing of regulations has stayed with MBIE. And funding of workplace harm prevention programmes will be held as a joint pool, together with ACC, and used only if both agencies agree – they may have different priorities.

· How will WorkSafe NZ achieve a wider culture change around health and safety – balancing regulatory and education roles, and developing codes of practices in workplaces?

· How will WorkSafe NZ measure success?

Comment from Labour Minister Simon Bridges and Labour Party spokesperson for Labour Andrew Little is included with the article.

Public Sector journal is published quarterly by the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ). Through the journal, IPANZ promotes informed debate on issues already significant in the way New Zealanders govern themselves, or which are emerging as issues calling for decisions on what sorts of laws and management New Zealanders are prepared to accept.


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