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Speech Notes for Launch of Site Safe - Wilson

Tuesday, 15 August 2000
EMBARGOED UNTIL 5.00 PM TUESDAY 15 AUGUST Speech Notes

Speech Notes for Launch of Site Safe Health & Safety Training system
Venue: Beehive Foyer
Tuesday, 15 August 2000 5:00 pm - 5:30 pm

I'm delighted to be here for two reasons.

One is that I believe no one will raise a point of order about a fruitcake.

The other is that it is wonderful to be able to talk about good news on Health and Safety.

Before turning to that good news – Site Safe - let look at some of the wider issues we face

SOCIAL

 In the year ended 31 June 2000 OSH investigated the deaths of 57 New Zealanders who lost their lives at work.

 Not all deaths fall under OSH’s jurisdiction and the true workplace death toll is likely to be closer to 160.

 In the same year OSH was also notified of accidents in which more than 4300 people were seriously injured.

 These were only serious reported accidents. In the previous year there were 29,000 individual claims against the ACC employers account.

ECONOMIC

 It is impossible to estimate the social cost that workplace accidents have on families, friends and workmates.

 It is almost as hard to evaluate the economic cost.

 What is known is that in the 1988/99 year the insured cost of workplace accidents (the cost of new and old ACC claim) was $637 million.

 Businesses face this cost through ACC premiums.

 What is also known is that this is the tip of the iceberg.

 Research was done in 1988 on the total cost of workplace accidents in New Zealand. Using this research as a base, a conservative estimate of the cost in the 1998/99-year is $3.18 billion.

 Businesses face costs as a result of injury as well.

 These wider costs include loss of staff time, repairing and replacing equipment, lost production time, training costs and loss of staff morale.


THE GOVERNMENT’S APPROACH

 The Government does not believe that these social and economic costs are acceptable.

 This Government believes people have the absolute right to go to work and earn a living without facing undue risks to their health and safety.

 The multi-billion cost of accidents means there is the potential for significant savings for businesses which improve their health and safety performance.

The ERB

 At the heart of the ERB is the aim to improve the relationship between employers and employees in the workplace.

 Free and open communication between employers, managers, employees and unions and a relationship of mutual trust are key foundations of good workplace health and safety.

 The Employment Relations Bill has as its stated objective "to build productive employment relationships through the promotion of mutual trust and confidence in all aspects of the employment environment"

 Trust and confidence are destroyed by avoidable hazard, injury and death.

 Through Trust and Confidence safety can be prompted and established in every workplace.

SITE SAFE

Site Safe is a good example of the sort of practical result possible when employers and managers, unions and employees cooperate to promote safety. I'm particularly pleased that OSH has also had a practical involvement in the development of Site Safe.

In another context – the area of Treaty negotiations – I have been arguing the benefits of what I call "principled pragmatism". No-one expects employers to give up the idea of profit, or unions to give up the idea of improved wages and conditions. No one expects OSH to back away from its enforcement role. But adherence to these principles should not get in the way of finding pragmatic solutions to real safety problems.

Site Safe is one such solution. Through improving and recognising individuals' skills in the safety area, it is possible to improve safety throughout the construction industry. Initial training provides a passport to work on a building site. Later training deepens and broadens this. And the tripartite nature of the system – backed by government, employers and unions – gives status to all who are trained in asserting the old but still valuable principle of "safety first".

A safety culture develops through training, mutual trust and understanding.

Training to get the knowledge and skills, trust in each other to act in a responsible way and mutual understanding of the needs, responsibilities and attitudes of the others involved in the safety-conscious employment relationship.

Congratulations on the development of the system, and on the excellence of the first best practice guidelines booklet.

CONCLUSION

There will always be risk at work

The prime responsibility to minimise that risk rests with the employer, and managers, unions and employees need to accept their responsibilities as well.

The government believes the Employment Relations Bill will create a new workplace environment which will contribute to improved health and safety.

But other legislative and policy initiatives will also be needed to help reduce death, injury, misery and loss.

After a death or serious injury everyone can see, clearly, ways in which the tragedy could be prevented. Everyone would, of they could, wind the clock back and do what should have been done.

I have said before that the message is simple: we should act BEFORE accidents happen in the way we so desperately wish had been done AFTER the accidents happen. Site Safe is a good example of acting for safety at the right time.


ENDS

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