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Working together to make workplaces safer

24 November 2008

Working together to make workplaces safer

Employers, unions, and the community are working together with the Department of Labour to make our workplaces safer, says Department of Labour Head of Workplace Health and Safety Craig Armitage.

Mr Armitage today released the third annual snapshot report of the Workplace Health and Safety Strategy for New Zealand to 2015. The 10-year Strategy was launched in 2005. It aims to lift New Zealand's health and safety performance, to enhance the productivity of New Zealand's businesses and reduce the number of kiwis who are seriously hurt or killed at work.

"This shared vision involves working together to reduce the work toll," said Mr Armitage. There are still too many incidences of work-related disease, injury and death. Government and the private sector will need to work together to bring about the changes need to make our workplaces safe and healthy."

Mr Armitage said that one of the priorities of the Strategy is to reduce accident rates among Maori and Pasifika workers, who have some of the highest workplace injury rates. To help achieve this reduction, the Department sponsored the Puataunofo Manukau Project, a community-based initiative which during the year released a DVD promoting health and safety for Pasifika workers in the manufacturing sector. The project also provided information stalls at community occasions and used events such as the Pasifika Festival and the ASB Polyfest to promote the health and safety message. Mr Armitage said workplace health and safety was about more than compliance with rules and regulations. "It is about developing a safety culture that focuses on best practice in the workplace."

During the year the Department organised a Health and Safety Summit at which international safety culture expert Professor Andrew Hopkins spoke to more than 120 employers, workers and health and safety experts on safety culture. The Department also developed a project in association with ACC and PF Olsen (on behalf of NZ Forest Owners Association) to develop a safety culture within the forestry industry, a sector with a traditionally high accident rate. As part of this project there were seminars in Rotorua and Nelson at which Mavis Mullins of Paewai Mullins Shearing - a winner at the 2008 Safeguard New Zealand Awards - shared with project participants and invited participants how health and safety is integral to her company's business culture and practices.

Mr Armitage said if the Strategy's desired outcomes are to be achieved by 2015, commitment and action from the government, industry and the community is required. "Good outcomes also require cultural and practical changes in many workplaces. The Department of Labour is committed to playing its part as a leader and participant within this agenda."

Mr Armitage said the Department is about to begin a review of the first stage of the strategy's progress. "The department will engage widely to ensure the right priorities are set, industries and communities are committed and the effectiveness of the Strategy is increased."


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