The popularity of ditch the rules

February 2nd, 2014 at 7:40 am by David Farrar

Marika Hill at SST reports:

An Auckland principal who bravely ditched the playground rulebook has been overwhelmed by the positive international response to his story.

The phone has been buzzing with calls and interview requests from around the world for Swanson Primary School principal Bruce McLachlan.

“It’s been a busy week, I didn’t expect it. It’s the reaction against the cotton-woolling of kids, helicopter parenting and nanny states.”

The Sunday Star-Times last week reported on the huge success the university experiment had on children’s behaviour – a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism – after the school let children do what they liked.

Rather than misbehaving, the children were burning all their energy climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush.

The story was shared more than 90,000 times on Facebook and the principal has been interviewed by 14 international media organisations. Another 30 principals have also contacted McLachlan.

90,000 shares is massive.

“What’s really surprised me is there has been no disagreement. There isn’t a naysayer among them.”

The school decided to let children test themselves in the playground, whether that be falling off a scooter or being hit by a ball, in a bid to teach them about risk taking.

May it catch on.


Free the children!

January 26th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Ripping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.

“When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult’s perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don’t.”

Swanson School signed up to the study by AUT and Otago University just over two years ago, with the aim of encouraging active play.

However, the school took the experiment a step further by abandoning the rules completely, much to the horror of some teachers at the time, he said.

When the university study wrapped up at the end of last year the school and researchers were amazed by the results.

Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol.

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a “loose parts pit” which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”

I’m not surprised. Kids treats rules as a challenge, not a restriction.

AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield, who worked on the research project, said there are too many rules in modern playgrounds.

“The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it’s more dangerous in the long-run.”

Society’s obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.


The research project morphed into something bigger when plans to upgrade playgrounds were stopped due to over-zealous safety regulations and costly play equipment.

“There was so many ridiculous health and safety regulations and the kids thought the static structures of playgrounds were boring.”

When researchers – inspired by their own risk-taking childhoods – decided to give children the freedom to create their own play, principals shook their heads but eventually four Dunedin schools and four West Auckland schools agreed to take on the challenge, including Swanson Primary School.

It was expected the children would be more active, but researchers were amazed by all the behavioural pay-offs. The final results of the study will be collated this year.

Look forward to the formal results.


CTU tries to defend their troughing

January 15th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Taxpayers Union yesterday revealed that ACC has spent $19 million funding Business NZ and the CTU for training which even if it lowered accident rates by 50%, would only return a benefit of 16 cents for every dollar spent.

The CTU has tried to justify their troughing by saying:

“We trained nearly 2000 health and safety representatives last year and the feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. 97 % felt they could perform the role of health and safety rep more confidently than before the course, 96 % said the course showed them how they could improve health and safety in their workplaces and nearly 99 % found that these courses were beneficial and helped with their understanding of the role and the importance of health and safety at work. Feedback has been consistently positive since we began these courses.”

The measure of effectiveness is whether there are fewer accidents at workplaces that receive the training, not on whether participants in a course tick a form saying they enjoyed the course.

The CTU is rightfully focusing on the appallingly high level of deaths in the foresty sector. They would be outraged if the Government’s response was that it doesn’t matter whether or not there are fewer deaths, so long as as employees who do a safety course rate it as beneficial.

CTU President Helen Kelly has also had a rant at The Daily Blog. She thinks there is something sinister that the TU got a response to our OIA 19 days after it was filed. Is she unaware that 20 days is the legal limit? She also says:

The training deliverables for the contract do not focus on the outcomes of the training only the numbers trained but the course is approved and overseen by a tripartite group.

That is the problem. It should be about outcomes. The CTU demand better outcomes in the forestry sector (and I agree with them) but don’t think their own levy payer funded training courses should be linked to improving outcomes. This is the problem when you stick your hand out for government funding – you become conflicted and even hypocritical.


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10 forestry deaths

December 20th, 2013 at 9:38 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

After coming into existence only this week, WorkSafe New Zealand has swiftly received a reminder of the task it faces in reining in the forestry industry.

Lincoln Kidd, 20, became the 10th forestry-related death of the year when killed felling trees near Levin today.

WorkSafe acting chief executive Geoffrey Podger said it was concerning that in the first week of its operation there had already been a forestry-related death.

“There’s a problem in this industry and it won’t be solved until everyone’s on the same course with the regulator,” Podger said.

WorkSafe took over workplace health and safety operations from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) on Monday. Before that MBIE had assessed 162 of the 330 cable logging operations.

The results were cause for real concern, Podger said.

“From 162 visits now done, we’ve had to take enforcement action 203 times, including shutting down 15 operations.”

10 is an appallingly high number of deaths. While forestry by its nature is a dangerous activity, that’s just unacceptable.

Good to see WorkSafe now up and running, and that MBIE has been active in shutting down dangerous operations. But it goes without saying the death toll must reduce significantly, if not entirely. The vast majority of forestry workers and sites managed to operate safely, and those sites that don’t should face the full consequences of the law.

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Million dollar union slush fund may be cut

October 1st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Rob Hosking at NBR reports:

A $1 million government funding to the Council of Trade Unions to run accident prevention workshops is under review.

ACC Minister Judith Collins recently announced a near doubling of the amount of funding the Accident Compensation Corporation makes for accident prevention work, from $22.4 million to $40 million.

However that is accompanied by a review of existing programmes and in an interview with NBR ONLINE Ms Collins said she had told officials there are no sacred cows with regards to existing programmes.

“And I’ve told them if they need to kill sacred cows that need slaughtering, I’ll back them.” 

And in the next breath she queries the value of programmes run by the Council of Trade Unions.

The CTU gets “about a million dollars a year” to run such programmes and she says it is not obvious this is the best use of that money.

“What I want to see is what is working.”

Comparatively few accidents happen in the workplace, she says – about 20%, although these injuries tend to be more serious.

This is beyond excellent. Not only is Judith Collins doubling the amount of funding for accident prevention, she is going to ensure it is actually spent on accident prevention rather than union membership recruitment.

I understand the $1 million a year funding to the CTU was established by a former Labour Deputy Leader when he was ACC Chair. Labour constantly tries to find ways for taxpayers to fund unions so that the unions in turn can fund the Labour Party!

The CTU has responded by hysterically demanding Judith Collins resigns, because she is demanding proof that they actually do anything worthwhile with their $1 million a year.

I understand Business NZ gets some funding also. I’d scrap the funding to both bodies, and use it to run safety campaigns at the coal face.

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Forestry injuries

September 24th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The CTU has a campaign underway calling for an inquiry into the forestry sector, due to its high accident and fatality rates. There certainly are an unacceptable number of deaths (any preventable death is of course unacceptable), but I have been unsure if there has been a sudden deterioration in the safety record in the forestry sector. So I asked ACC and MBIE for their data on forestry related deaths and injuries going back to 1990.

ACC has data back to 2002. Their data is:

  • 2002 – 2,340 claims (4 fatal)
  • 2003 – 2,046 (5 fatal)
  • 2004 – 1,642  (1 – 3 fatal)
  • 2005 – 1,543
  • 2006 – 1,259 (4 fatal)
  • 2007 – 1,233 (1-3 fatal)
  • 2008 – 1,142 (1-3 fatal)
  • 2009 – 1,229 (4 fatal)
  • 2010 – 1,374 (1 – 3 fatal)
  • 2011 – 1,384 (6 fatal)
  • 2012 – 1,402 (1 – 3 fatal)
  • 2013 – 858 for 8 months (1,287 pro-rata) (1- 3 fatal)

So the level of ACC claims in the sector is well down on a decade ago. However fair to note that it does appear to have been trending up since 2008. However 2013 may end up below 2012.

The number of claims involving a fatal injury varies, with it ranging from 0 to 6. Note that the data ACC has is based on occupations supplied, so if a truck driver was killed in a forestry accident, they would not record that as forestry sector. However MBIE does, and we’ll now look at their data:

MBIE also has data back to 2002 only. They get notifed of any accidents which involve serious harm, which is of course more seriious that just an ACC claim for minor accidents. So their data set is probably more important and useful.

  • 2002 – 259 serious harm notifications (4 fatalities)
  • 2003 – 214 (6)
  • 2004 – 193 (6)
  • 2005 – 192 (0)
  • 2006 – 166 (7)
  • 2007 – 174 (3)
  • 2008 – 179 (4)
  • 2009 – 161 (5)
  • 2010 – 170 (4)
  • 2011 – 182 (3)
  • 2012 – 188 (6)
  • 2013 – 111 (7) – pro-rata would be 167 (10)

So this also shows serious injuries are lower than a decade ago, but an upwards trend from 2009. However again 2013 may end up lower.

The level of fatalities also appears fairly consistent over the last decade, except of course the horribly high level for the first eight months of 2013.

So is an inquiry the answer? I certainly share the concern of the CTU and others that the level of serious injuries and fatalities is too high.

There is a plan for reducing deaths and injuries in the sector, that was published in August 2011. Also starting from last month the new health and safety inspectorate has started a workplace assessment programme of site visits to all 330 forestry operators. I think the pro-active approach is welcome.

It’s good that the CTU are focusing on a sector with too many accidents. I’m not persuaded an inquiry would be greatly beneficial, and I think the initiatives underway will hopefully make an impact. The level of serious injury is still below that of a decade ago (when no inquiries were being demanded) but the upwards trend is unacceptable and hopefully over the next 12 months that trend will reverse.



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Dom Post on OSH changes

August 12th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

It is a rare feat for a government of any hue to embark on changes to workplace laws that win the approval of employers and unions alike.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges has managed to achieve that with the overhaul of health and safety rules and regulations he revealed last week.

The package activates nearly all the recommendations from the Independent Task Force on Workplace Health and Safety, which was set up following the Pike River Coal mining tragedy.

The fact the measures have been broadly welcomed by the Council of Trade Unions and Business NZ is a good indication the task force struck the right balance between the need to reduce on-the-job accidents  and strangling businesses with red tape.

I think the key thing is the flexibility for smaller businesses, as a one size fits all prescription would be very bad,

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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.


Kid’s play

May 25th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A misguided health and safety culture is threatening to render children’s play meaningless, early childhood providers are to be warned.

The United Kingdom-based founder of Outdoor Play and Learning (Opal), Michael Follett, says a “policy of fear” has reshaped play to the extent that children are losing out on vital learning.

“You are taking away their ability to learn through primary, first-hand experience, which is how children actually learn.

“They need to fall over, they need to cut themselves, have bumps and bruises.

“If you over-protect, they don’t learn resilience.”

So very true.

Mr Follett, who is a board member of advocacy group Play England, said the situation in the UK had become ridiculous.

“People are saying tree roots are dangerous … “

As a father of three, he said, he understood nobody wanted to see children hurt.

“Some of the health and safety stuff came from a genuine response to children getting killed and seriously hurt, and that is very sensible. But what’s not sensible is the idea that you can eliminate risk.”

The focus should be on the high end stuff. I think you need a resource consent today to build a tree hut!

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Dom Post on workplace safety

May 2nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

What is known is that each year about 200,000 workers – one out of every 10 – make an ACC claim for a work-related injury or illness. Given that not all workers injured on the job make claims, the actual number of injuries will be even higher.

The total cost to New Zealand of this sorry state of affairs is estimated to be $3.5 billion a year. It is, as the task force notes, a price that is “appalling, unacceptable and unsustainable”.

Several factors are to blame for this intolerable situation. They include regulations that fail to make clear who is responsible for what, weak monitoring, enforcement and penalties and a lack of worker involvement.

The task force has proposed a series of sensible measures to address these issues. They include a recommendation, already accepted by the Government, that a stand-alone agency should be created to oversee safety in workplaces, provide information to workers and employers and collect data on accident, injury and death rates.

The task force has also proposed tougher legislation and penalties and a carrot-and-stick approach that will give incentives, such as lower ACC levies, to employers who reduce injury rates while punishing those who fail to act.

I am a big fan of ACC levies and premiums reflecting your accident record. I say this as an employer that (to the best of my knowledge) has never had a work related injury in nine years – yet pays a significant amount in premiums.

You need both carrot and stick when it comes to workplace safety. It is important that the focus go on the stick only.

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A health and safety agency

February 23rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Bridges has announced:

The Government’s focus on significantly lifting New Zealand’s workplace health and safety record is behind the establishment of a new, stand-alone agency, says Labour Minister Simon Bridges.

The creation of a stand-alone Crown agent was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy.

“The new agency will have a dedicated focus on health and safety and underlines the Government’s strong commitment to addressing New Zealand’s workplace fatality and serious injury rates,” says Mr Bridges.

“We have a firm target of a 25 per cent reduction of these rates by 2020.

This was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission, and you expect the Government to implement all the recommendations unless there is a very good reason not to. The Pike River tragedy is a good example of what happens when there is an inadequate focus on health and safety.

Of course no workplace can be made free from risk, and nor should it be. Health and safety is always a balancing act. Otherwise we would engineer cars to not drive faster than 30 km/hr.

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Health & Safety Spending

November 16th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Just been looking at the level of Government spending on health and safety, in the wake of the Royal Commission report. Here’s the increase or decrease in health and safety spending since 1999.

  • 2000 +$5,000
  • 2001 -$52,000
  • 2002 +$2,582,000
  • 2003 -$251,000
  • 2004 -$438,000
  • 2005 +$3,865,000
  • 2006 -$157,000
  • 2007 +$3,818,000
  • 2008 +$4,268,000
  • 2009 -$98,000
  • 2010 +$2,969,000
  • 2011 +$3,224,000
  • 2012 +$8,528,000

So if anyone goes on about cuts to health and safety funding, these facts may be useful.


Forklift Safety

April 19th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

This German safety video on forklift driving is a classic. We need safety videos like this here!

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Editorials 29 June 2010

June 29th, 2010 at 1:54 pm by David Farrar

The Press examines the smoking ban in prisons:

From the middle of next year New Zealand’s prisons are set to emulate Australia’s and become smokefree.

It is a long overdue move. It was an anomaly that prisoners could still smoke in their cells as the rest of New Zealand moved increasingly towards a no-smoking regime.

School grounds, hospitals, and other government departments have gone smokefree, as have bars, restaurants and businesses, and, in Christchurch, there is even a smokefree policy in parks.

For many prisoners – two-thirds of inmates – an enforced cold turkey regime will seem a hardship or even a civil rights breach. But those who have committed crimes against society should not expect the right to smoke, just as they cannot legally have alcohol and drugs.

What amuses me is the policy dilemma for Labour. They instinctively are in favour of anything that is anti-smoking but against anything that they see as punitive to prisoners.

So how does Labour solve this dilemma? They run a blog poll to decide their policy :-)

The Dom Post looks at the trans-Tasman relationship:

When Julia Gillard became prime minister of Australia, Prime Minister John Key was the first foreign leader to phone in his congratulations.

He needs to hope his fast dialling finger will deliver a better result than his predecessor, Helen Clark, achieved with her swift flight over for a cup of tea with Kevin Rudd when he got the job – in his time as prime minister Mr Rudd never quite made it to New Zealand for an official visit.

Mr Key, like Miss Clark before him, is smart enough to realise the onus is on Wellington to keep reminding Canberra what the “NZ” stands for in Anzac. The reality, however unpalatable it might be to some, is that New Zealand is simply not as important to Australia as Australia is to New Zealand.

Australia is New Zealand’s most important trading partner and its most important security relationship. …

Talk about whether New Zealand and Australia should take their relationship to the next level and look at issues such as a common border can wait until the Australian election is over.

Mr Key’s job is to ensure New Zealand’s interests are not damaged in the meantime.

Miss Clark and John Howard reportedly enjoyed a warm relationship despite their different political ideologies. The hope must be that the state-house son of a refugee and the daughter of a 10 immigrant from Wales can do the same.

The irony is that PM from opposite parties seem to have got on better than PMs from the same side of the spectrum.

The ODT looks at OSH:

It is one of our cultural stereotypes: the rugged, versatile, no-nonsense farmer – the sort of person for whom most regulations are made by townies for townies who have no real understanding of the demands and constraints of a working life in the country; and, further, how the red tape that such people unhesitatingly impose on the rural sector can seriously impact on proven working methods and productivity.

In no other sphere is this more pronounced, or more irritating to some, than on-farm safety: the rules and regulations promulgated by the Department of Labour, Occupational Safety and Health and ACC are frequently seen as at best a brake on freedom and individual responsibility and, at worst, the interfering actions of bureaucrats and the “politically correct”.

Sadly, the reality is that such organisations have reason to be concerned.

According to the latest figures released by ACC, farmers are killing themselves in work-related accidents at the rate of one every 28 days.

Last year, 13 farmers died in accidents on New Zealand farms.

There were 18,600 injuries on farms, with quad bikes, farm machinery and poor animal handling featuring as the most common causes.

Raw figures by themselves mean little. What would be more useful is the injury rate per employee.

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$480,000 fine for OPC

March 21st, 2009 at 8:01 am by David Farrar

My first reaction upon hearing that the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre had been fined $480,000 for its role in the death of seven students and staff from Elim College was that it was over the top.

My reasoning was that while big fines make sense if it was a commercial workplace (as would provide incentive to make things safer), a $480,000 fine on a not for profit centre could actually rob them of the money they need to make things safer.

But then upon reading the story, I found in fact they have only been fined $40,000 and the other $440,000 is reparations to the families of the deceased (and a small amont to the survivors). That changes the nature of it, and makes it seem far more reasonable. Not that $60,000 is any compensation for losing a family member, but its a lot more than you would probably get if they were murdured!


National’s ACC policy

July 16th, 2008 at 3:27 pm by David Farrar

National has released its ACC policy. As expected they are supportive of opening the workplace account up to competition.

Now you will hear much misinformaion about what this means. It in no way means employees will have less rights to compensation in case of an accident. All insurers will have to provide the at least the exact same coverage as the ACC does.

What it does is allow employers to choose the best workplace insurer for them. Just as we do not force everyone to use the same car insurer or same contents insurer. Employers will also be able to purchase workplace insurance beyond the minimum requirements – something you can’t do through the ACC.

If an insurer does not have a state monopoly behind it, then it has incentives to work with employers to have safer workplaces. It is a win-win-win. Insurers pay out less money. Employers get cheaper premiums and employees have less accidents.

Labour will argue that OSH regulations provide the incentive to have safe workplaces. This is typical leftish thinking – all stick and no carrot. Now as it happens large employers are able to already get some incentives in terms of the accredited employers scheme which allows self or private insurance. This is about giving all employers that same choice.

National says in their policy:

There is little incentive (in the form of lower levies) for those who adopt good safety practices in the workplace, and there are no penalties for those who disregard good safety practices.

Because there is no choice or competition, there is no real transparency around the
operation of the scheme.

Employers provide the basic minimum cover for staff, as they are obliged to do. A more flexible scheme would encourage employers to buy more than the basic cover.

All good points. Having made those points I am surprised they are not saying they will definitely introduce the much needed competition, but just investigate it. I guess they are keeping options open in case it proves too difficult. At the end of the day they did so in 1998, so I am confident they will do so.

Finally they are also saying they will investigate the merit of introducing an independent disputes tribunal to end ACC’s dual role of judge and jury on disputed claims. I suspect there would be considerable support for that.

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