Misinformation from Worksafe

Stuff reports:

Worksafe NZ has been accused of “grossly exaggerating” workplace injuries and fatalities in a major television advertising campaign.

But the Crown agency is sticking by its “Home Time” campaign, indicating it uses a definition that classes “severe injuries” as much more common than “serious” ones.

Most people would regard severe and serious as very similiar terms. If anything you’d think severe is worse than serious.

Worksafe’s campaign contains a statement from Griffins Foods chief executive Alison Barrass that “last year more than 23,000 people were severely injured or killed in New Zealand workplaces”.

By linking it to killed, it makes you think these are injuries just short of death. Maybe lose a limb, or be off work for months.

But Statistics NZ data indicated only 450 people were killed or seriously injured at work in 2014, said Ian Harrison, principal of Wellington economics consultant Tailgate Economics.

450 vs 23,000!

Harrison, who previously worked for the Reserve Bank and World Bank, has filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority, describing the advertisements as “deceptive”.

Figures published by Worksafe NZ on its own website indicated there were 44 workplace fatalities in the year to April 2015 and 3384 “serious harm notices”.

So the Worksafe ad uses a figure 50 times larger than Stats NZ and seven times larger than their own website.

It defined a severe injury as a work-related claim that required more than seven days off work, while a serious injury involved hospitalisation and a higher risk of death, he said. 

So severe is a week off work. I doubt most people would think of that as servere.

Harrison believed people were likely to be misled by that.

“The viewer is being led to believe that tens of thousands are ‘not coming home’ each year because of death or serious injury.

I’m with Harrison. This is not a good start for Worksafe.

His report is here. It will be interesting to see the decision of the ASA.

UPDATE: Worksafe responds:

WorkSafe New Zealand’s Home Time advertisement states that “last year more than 23-thousand people were severely injured or killed in New Zealand workplaces.” That is completely correct.

The 23,000 figure relates to ACC data for severe injuries, which require more than 7 days off work. Severe injuries can include everything from falls from height to being hit by moving objects. Not only does that mean that thousands of New Zealanders suffered severe work-related injuries it also represents a huge loss of productivity.

‘Severe injuries’ is one of the three official measures that are used to track progress towards the Government’s target of reducing workplace injuries by 25 per cent by 2020 (along with fatalities and serious injuries).

Tailrisk Economics has focused on the ‘serious injury’ measure as if it is the only valid measure. It is not.

The Home Time advertisement sets out the case for New Zealand needing to do a better job at keeping people health and safe at work – and WorkSafe stands by that 100 per cent.


  • Severe injuries are defined as work-related injury claims that require more than a week off work (and excludes what are called ‘gradual process injuries’).

  • Serious injuries are defined as hospitalisations with a higher chance of death.

  • Tailrisk Economics is wrong when it suggests the Home Time advertisement refers to 23,000 deaths and serious injuries. As explained above, the 23,000 figure relates to severe injuries and deaths.

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