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Stating the obvious when it comes to worker safety

Darien FENTON
Labour Spokesperson

8 September 2011

Stating the obvious when it comes to worker safety
Inquiries into the Pike River mining tragedy, the death of a worker at Fonterra’s Edendale plant, and the Tamahere cool store fire highlight the need for the government to revisit cuts it has made to workplace health and safety, says Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Darien Fenton.

“They show just how horrific the consequences can be when health and safety is compromised and while there are many factors involved, the Government can’t afford to stand back and risk more workers’ lives.

“Health and Safety enforcement in the Department of Labour has been systematically run down. It’s led to the axing of two crucial roles - chief advisor in Health and Safety, and chief advisor Occupational Health – being replaced by junior information officer positions in its call centre,” Darien Fenton said.

“There are now simply not enough people to enforce regulations or to carry out prosecutions and it’s showing up in increased workplace fatality and injury statistics.

“Training for workplace health and safety representatives has been slashed as well, with ACC Minister Nick Smith describing the roles as ‘touchy, feely, nice to have’ but not really important.

“Comments like that reinforce the stereotyping of those whose job it is to keep people safe as part of a ‘nanny state’. Employers have taken that as a signal and, like the Government, are now relying on industry co-operation and self-regulation.

“Pike River and subsequent audits of other mines revealed that self-regulation leads to on-going problems. In other industries, such as construction, forestry and farming, the death and injury tolls demonstrate that closing your eyes and hoping for the best is not working.

“Self- regulation really means no regulation, and without a decent inspectorate and enforcement resources, New Zealanders will continue to put themselves on the line at work,” Darien Fenton said.

ENDS

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