Health & Safety changes

August 7th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Bridges has announced:

The most significant reform of New Zealand’s workplace health and safety system in 20 years has been announced today by Labour Minister Simon Bridges.

“The Working Safer package represents a major step change in New Zealand’s approach to meet our target of reducing the workplace injury and death toll by 25 percent by 2020,” says Mr Bridges.

“The reforms recalibrate our approach so we are working smarter, targeting risk and working together to improve performance in workplace health and safety.

“This is the legacy we owe to the Pike River families, the families of the 75 people who are killed each year in New Zealand workplaces, and the estimated 600 to 900 who die annually from the long-term effects of occupational disease.”

Mr Bridges says Working Safer addresses the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety which provided Government with a solid foundation to work from.

The details are:

  • an overhaul of the law, supported by clear, consistent guidelines and information for business on their requirements
  • more funding for WorkSafe New Zealand to strengthen enforcement and education and implement the changes
  • a focus on high risk areas
  • stronger focus on occupational harm and hazardous substances
  • better coordination between government agencies
  • improved worker participation
  • stronger penalties, enforcement tools and court powers.

The CTU has praised the package:

The CTU welcomes moves today to strengthen our health and safety system.

Helen Kelly, CTU President said “the announcements today acknowledge that our health and safety system is in need of an overhaul, and we welcome the direction taken by the Government with these proposed changes.”

“Moves to strengthen worker participation at the workplace are particularly positive and will help keep Kiwi workers safer at work. The inclusion of a general duty to involve and consult with workers on health and safety matters, and strengthen the role of H&S representatives will give workers a voice in how health and safety is handled in their workplace”. …

“The Government’s response today is, in general loyal to the recommendations of both the Pike River Inquiry and its Taskforce recommendations and that is exactly as it should be. 

Their only real complaint is they don’t get to appoint a board member:

However to choke on the strong consensus recommendation from the Taskforce (that included business and government representation) that tripartism is an essential element that should be evident throughout the system, and to not have worker representation on the Board is both short-sighted and a badly missed opportunity which is unfair to the working people of this country”

Business NZ has also welcomed the package:

BusinessNZ has welcomed today’s announcement today of new health and safety legislation to be administered by the recently established Worksafe New Zealand.

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said it was a significant step in the right direction.

“Moving to a principles-based regime in which health and safety responses are tailored to the business rather than the current one-size-fits-all approach will be a real help to many businesses, as will a simpler approach to levy setting and other costs.

Pretty good work to have both Business NZ and the CTU praising the package.

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21 Responses to “Health & Safety changes”

  1. gazzmaniac (2,270 comments) says:

    Good.
    As long as New Zealand doesn’t end up like certain states in Australia where each business must have a dedicated bureacracy for pumping out safety propaganda and making stupid rules then it’s a good thing. What we don’t want is HSE slowing growth.

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  2. gravedodger (1,426 comments) says:

    Does it address any of the many actions of workers taking risks, shortcuts, and compromising safe practice with personal choices as to substance abuse, concentration and not following stated practice.
    The serious degradation of standards of personal responsibility in modern society make many H&S guidelines and requirements redundant.

    It is so much easier to blame management and governance.

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  3. MT_Tinman (2,795 comments) says:

    and to not have worker representation on the Board is both short-sighted and a badly missed opportunity which is unfair to the working people of this country”

    As a working people of this country I’ll survive the absence.

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  4. gazzmaniac (2,270 comments) says:

    gravedodger – if they do follow some of the Australian model, there will be mandatory worker requirements for not taking shortcuts, with consequences. If a company doesn’t punish offenders for certain rule breaches, they can be fined, and statutory management positions such as a senior site executive can personally be fined, and in rare cases (eg fatalities) management can be jailed. Workers do get in trouble and the rules do get followed, and changed as applicable.
    If you’re taking an unauthorised shortcut over here and get injured, your entitlement to workcover is severly limited.
    If you are doing work that is meant to be risk assessed and you haven’t done the paperwork, ditto.

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  5. Griff (6,263 comments) says:

    . an overhaul of the law, supported by clear, consistent guidelines and information for business on their requirements
    . more funding for WorkSafe New Zealand to strengthen enforcement and education and implement the changes

    Sounds like more bureaucracy and costly stupid regulation.
    Authoritarian, implicitly inflexible, cost loading, rubbish wake work for busybodies.

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  6. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,684 comments) says:

    “…….Authoritarian, implicitly inflexible, cost loading, rubbish wake work for busybodies.”

    And then they all died.

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  7. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    If the CTU are for it , it must be a pig.

    As Griff says..more busy bodies..more rules ..more cotton wool…

    Get out of my fuckn life handwringing do-gooders..

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  8. Simon (613 comments) says:

    Anything in the legislation for employers to summary fire drunk and drugged out employees?

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  9. Griff (6,263 comments) says:

    Adolf Fiinkensein
    Qualified I am to comment. NZ diploma in work place health and safety.Ten years Health and safety rep experience from the workers side.

    Authority driven by one objective “safety” as a focus for authority does not account for the reality’s of business.

    Regulation to make people do things is going to cost money. It is going to significantly impact overheads in industry.

    Those caught up in such bureaucratic nightmares are often those with less funds to fudge with lawyers.

    I question the value gained by our obsessive desire to eliminate all risk at the cost of personal freedom.

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  10. wiseowl (578 comments) says:

    Something National introduces and supported by the CTU.?

    No doubt we will have to have an army of pommie immigrants to arrive to fill all the extra positions created?

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  11. tvb (3,948 comments) says:

    I would prefer a package that got the criticism of the Unions

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  12. big bruv (12,388 comments) says:

    Correct me if I am wrong but is this the same lying evil cow Kelly who is dead against drug testing in the work place?

    Why do our media give her any air time, she has proved to be nothing more than a liar over and over again.

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  13. Dennis Horne (2,059 comments) says:

    Destroying the old Mines Department and replacing it with help-desk type persons resulted in a serious and preventable mine disaster. Well, blow me…

    From the early days clever people knew what they were doing:
    http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc01Cycl-t1-body-d3-d15-d18.html

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  14. SPC (4,679 comments) says:

    The competent government in action was based on a direct steal off Oz legislation.

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  15. SPC (4,679 comments) says:

    The reforms will bring New Zealand health and safety laws in line with Australia’s.

    The proposed package includes:

    •A new Health and Safety at Work bill, modelled on Australian laws, to be introduced to Parliament in December.

    If passed it will replace the existing Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. It will outline the obligation businesses, employees and government have to keep people safe.

    •A new government regulator, WorkSafe New Zealand, will target work sectors with a high number of deaths and serious injuries, and major hazard facilities which have the potential for ”one-off catastrophic events”.

    •ACC levies will rise by 3c per $100 of wages to 8c to pay for health and safety, with the budget for the regime rising from $53.7m a year to $79.3m by 2018.

    •Nearly everyone will be responsible for ensuring a safe and healthy workplace – from the cleaner to the chairman of the board – though the level of responsibility will depend on the role. Companies will also be responsible for sub-contractors -”obligations cannot be contracted away”.

    •If a person or business does not exercise the due diligence required in their role, WorkSafe can issue infringement notices and bring prosecutions. Infringement notices can be issued without a formal warning first.

    •A tiered liability regime has been proposed with three categories of offence: Reckless conduct (a maximum penalty of $600,000 for an individual and five years’ imprisonment, or up to $3 million for a company), failure exposing to serious risk (a maximum penalty of $300,000 for an individual and or up to $1.5 million for a company), and failure (a maximum penalty of $100,000 for an individual and or up to $500,000 for a company).

    •Worker participation in workplace health and safety issues will be legislated, but a company’s obligations will depend on the size of the company. There will be a general duty to involve and consult workers on health and safety and to support health and safety representatives with training and resources. The law will specify powers for representatives and committees, and may include powers to demand unsafe work stops and issue a provisional improvement notice to address a health and safety issue.

    •WorkSafe and ACC will work together on a workplace injury prevention plan.The package has stopped short of implementing the Taskforce’s recommendation that a corporate manslaughter charge be put in place, though it is still under consideration by Justice minister Judith Collins.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/9012550/Health-and-safety-overhaul-under-way

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  16. David Garrett (5,152 comments) says:

    This is a tricky one…the oil drilling industry I used to work in is one of the most dangerous…up there with mining. The level of “health and safety” rules applying now compared with when I last walked on a rig floor in anger is 100 times what it was…but I am not sure the workplace is any safer, and there now are some quite ridiculous steps which are required to be taken…such as being “inducted” before walking through the warehouse at the office of the drilling contractor I represented as a lawyer. But after that absurdity I was able to walk onto a rig location (looking for an old mate) during a rig move – which is a very dangerous time – and wander around for about 15 minutes before someone asked me what I was doing.

    On the other side – and I confess to no more knowledge of mining than the next man – Pike River pretty clearly was the result of serious failures, both systemic and literally “at the coalface”. It seems pretty much common sense to me – and that is distressingly less common – to have the “check inspectors” who were removed from the system years ago.

    I also am very suspicious of the CTU…and it’s not just Kelly who is opposed to drug testing; when Air New Zealand wanted to introduce workplace drug testing Andrew Little, then EPMU President, led the charge against it. I cant think of a workplace where random drug testing is MORE justified than a place where they repair planes. A stoned roughneck would probably only kill himself and perhaps another…a stoned aircraft engineer could be responsible for the deaths of thousands – those in the plane and the people on the ground killed when it falls out of the sky.

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  17. OTGO (457 comments) says:

    They can pass any amount of reforms they like. You still can’t help stupid.

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  18. gazzmaniac (2,270 comments) says:

    What DG said.
    Having worked in mining in both New Zealand and Queensland (and NSW), I was shocked at the bureacracy around safety when I first moved to QLD. Having said that, after working in mining and now gas, I think the Queensland system is safer.
    There is not nearly as much dodgy stuff going on in Queensland as there was in NZ. If you want to do a job that is out of the ordinary, you have to stand back and think it through first. You also have to document it, to save your arse if you do fuck up. That is a good thing, and it never happened in New Zealand. Ever.

    There is of course a downside, and that is the Queensland system is overly bureacratic. Safety officers always feel the need to be seen to be doing something, even if it is counterproductive. A perfect example is a well known coal mining company in the Bowen Basin (I don’t work for them but I know many who do) who implemented wheel chocks every time you get out of a vehicle. The idea is to stop the vehicle from moving, which in certain circumstances is a good move. But the reason why it was implemented was because somebody got out to open a gate, failed to engage the hand brake, and got pinned between the fence and the vehicle. And for the last five years, all employees and contractors of that company must put chocks under wheels when they get out of their vehicle. Box cutter knives are banned on many mine sites for similar reasons – the company I work for requires that all blades be self retracting. Because somebody might hurt themselves. Despite the fact that we all use those tools safely at home, they are banned in the workplace because of safety officers who take their job too far. Oh yeah, we also need to be inducted if we visit head office in central Brisbane. It is a retarded system in many ways, but I’d rather put up with that than have people get killed.

    It will cost businesses, especially larger ones, lots of money.

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  19. gazzmaniac (2,270 comments) says:

    Also –
    Nobody argues about random drug testing here, it is done and people tolerate it. It is simple to avoid getting caught – don’t smoke pot and you’re fine. What doesn’t make sense is that it is harder to pick up worse drugs like methamphetamine. It has ensured a move by most people in the industry away from smoking pot, and has made those that would have smoked pot but still want something to use harder drugs like ice and speed (which are only in your system for a day or two) and mushrooms (which aren’t currently tested for). Probably a lot worse for you that smoking pot would be, but the unintended consequence of random drug testing.

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  20. David Garrett (5,152 comments) says:

    Gazz: there are almost always unintended consequences, and what you have just outlined is typical of them…But what the hell is the “right” ansa? Is there one? I know when I worked the rigs it was an unwritten rule that no-one used drugs because of the danger to the rest of the guys on the rig floor…but that wasnt the case on the major construction job in Taranaki I worked on in 1983…While that was for the most part a considerably less dangerious environment, it still involved heavy loads and men working in close proximity to them….and half the work force was out of it most of the time.

    Interestingly in Pike River I have never heard any suggestion that drugs played any part, although I believe there is some suspicion that guys down the mine had cigarette lighters they shouldnt have had…

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  21. gazzmaniac (2,270 comments) says:

    The retarded parts of the system have more to do with the intelligence of the safety officers who administer the system without listening to people who do the work, than it does with legislation.

    The Queensland system doesn’t account for retards who don’t know how to do the work making up rules that do nothing for safety but make the job harder. But if you argue with them (or risk assess around it) you’re a shitstirrer – don’t argue with a safety officer, they’re there to look after you. The company said so. In reality they are either there only to look after the company’s interests or they are the fall guys if something goes wrong. It is my experience that they’re either incompetent fat fucks who don’t want to do a real job, or they’re on a power trip and they’re out to get you. It is so unusual to find a sensible one – one of the few I ever met was a former detective, and the company used the 90 day trial period to get rid of him for “not fitting in with team culture” – but everyone knew it was because he was showing up the other safety officers with being competent!

    I’ve also never seen a bad rule repealed – it takes some balls, since if you are the one who is responsible for repealing a rule and someone gets injured, you’re the one who gets in trouble.

    I hope New Zealand doesn’t adopt the worst 10% of the safety culture of Queensland, but does take the 90% that is good.

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