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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Taskforce tests the waters

Taskforce tests the waters
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New Zealand

No one can say the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety is not taking its public consultation brief seriously. Four of its six members turned up at AUT's Business School for the first of 15 open meetings being held around the country to sample public opinion about the issues facing New Zealand's workplace health and safety system and the best ways to address them.

Taskforce chairman Rob Jager appeared well pleased with the 25 people participating in the first meeting of the day. A later session, designed to capture the after-work audience, attracted only half a dozen attendees, but if Jager and his team - Paul Mackay, Bill Rosenberg and Paula Rose - were disappointed they didn't let it show.

Introducing the sessions, Jager was brutally frank about New Zealand's workplace health and safety record. "The annual cost of workplace accidents in New Zealand is estimated at $3.5 billion, which is huge, but I suspect this underestimates the true cost by an order of magnitude."

"We perform significantly worse than just about anyone else we compare ourselves with. We are between one-and-a-half and two times as bad as Australia, and six times as bad as the UK."

He made it clear that well rehearsed explanations about small businesses or high-hazard industries were no excuse, pondering instead whether our legislation has been left behind by changes to work arrangements, when most other jurisdictions had significantly modified the original Robens-style OHS framework.

The taskforce, he said, had identified a number of themes and ideas, but the public meetings were "critically important" to ensure that any steps taken were appropriate for the New Zealand work environment.

Attendees were then invited to work in groups, to identify the problems with New Zealand's OHS system as they saw them, and consider options for change. For a lively 20 minutes lawyers and academics traded ideas with safety reps and self-employed tradesmen, before each group was invited to outline two of its key points to the rest of the gathering.

There is, it seems, quite a lot wrong with the existing regime. Problems identified include the absence of one over-arching enforcement body, poor communication from the regulator, an apparent inability to establish good OHS protocols for smaller businesses, the prevalence of 'she'll be right' attitudes, the need for strategic partnerships to provide support and build safety culture, the failure of senior managers to provide strong leadership, and the lack of an effective publicity campaign that could make unsafe workplace behaviour as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.

Ideas for change included the introduction of OHS education in schools, a shift to a collaborative model for design and construction, incentives for good OHS performance, and customised, interactive training courses for workplace reps.
While participants will have to wait until the end of April to find out if any of these ideas make the final cut, Jager encouraged them to also make individual submissions, explaining that the taskforce website offers a variety of tools to simplify this process.

He also invited feedback about the meeting itself, and received unanimous affirmation.

Written submissions close on November 16. The schedule of public meetings and how to make a submission is described here.

People Mentioned:
Rob Jager; Bill Rosenberg; Paula Rose; Paul Mackay
Organisations Mentioned:
Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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