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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Occupational health challenges

Occupational health challenges
Article Type:
Publications and Consultations
Publication Date:
New Zealand

Issues around long latency and challenges about pinning down the causes of occupational disease make it the poor cousin to injury prevention, says the Department of Labour.

In its draft Occupational Health Action Plan, to improve the occupational health of New Zealand workers, the DoL says long latency periods following occupational exposures and difficulties in attributing the contribution of the work-based causes of diseases make it a relatively complex area to understand.That is why compensation for occupational illnesses and disease is much less common than for occupational injury, the DoL plan says.

As a result, workplace exposures to identified health hazards often ends up as a 'poor cousin' to injury prevention and management of satey hazards. "This needs to change," the draft plan says.

According to the DoL, occupational diseases cause an estimated 700 to 1000 deaths each year, and 17,000 new cases of work-related diseases are estimated to occur annually.

The plan aims to reduce these death and illness rates and is part of the National Action Agenda. It proposes to prioritise five occupational health issues:

  • Occupational cancer;
  • Respiratory hazards;
  • Noise;
  • Skin irritants; and
  • Psycho-social hazards.

The DoL's deputy chief executive Labour Group, Lesley Haines, said the Action Plan also focuses on developing the country's capability to address occupational health issues, and building relationships between government, industry and occupational health researchers and practitioners.

The draft plan says managing occupational health issues can be difficult for workplaces. Understanding exposure to health hazards at work often required specialist knowledge and workplace managers and H&S reps did not always have easy access to such information, especially in smaller businesses.

Developing capability required improving the knowledge of workplace managers and H&S reps, improving the expertise of the occupational health workforce, and the skill set of primary health practitioners as the first point of contact with those experiencing symptoms of occupational disease.

Long term initiatives proposed in the draft plan include building the public profile of occupational health issues, and focusing on the good design of workplaces like reducing machine noise.

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From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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