Inbox: Adding insult to injury?

Kiwi workers are twice as likely to get injured at work as their Australian counterparts and almost six times more likely than people in the UK. And that is not okay according to Rob Jager chair of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety.
His group has released consultation document outlining the key issues it sees impacting on workplace health and safety, and seeking input from as broad cross section of New Zealand as possible.
“Workplace injuries are not an isolated issue – they affect everyone,” says Jager. “They occur as result of combination of many things including changing workplace practices and environments, regulatory ‘fitness’ and perhaps even our own culture.”
Jager says the taskforce’s recommendations need to change New Zealand’s poor track record. “Achieving the required step-change will take the combined efforts of government, businesses, workers, unions and society as whole.”
The taskforce will make recommendations to Government on how to reduce workplace harm.
The discussion document is available online at Respondents can fill in an online form to make submission or provide their own written account by email or in hard copy.
Submissions close at 5pm on November 16, 2012. The taskforce will report to Government by April 30 next year.
Meanwhile, Katherine Percy and Paul Jarvie argue that New Zealand’s workplace safety statistics are unlikely to improve significantly unless employers take steps to address literacy issues amongst their employees.
Percy is chief executive of adult literacy, numeracy and communication support provider Workbase, while Jarvie is manager of occupational health and safety for the Employers and Manufacturers Association, and national manager for the NZ Institute of Safety Management (NZISM).
They say more than 200,000 New Zealanders are seriously harmed and more than 100 killed in workplace accidents every year.
They note that research has found most New Zealand adults can read and write straightforward, familiar information but around half have significant literacy and/or numeracy gaps that affect their ability to manage the more complex demands of their jobs.
Jarvie says literacy issues make it difficult to reduce workplace accidents because people don’t understand written information about hazards. It also means that many people are unable to correctly fill in the health and safety incident forms that provide valuable information to employers and the authorities.
“It’s widely agreed that more research is needed to understand where and why workplace accidents are happening and in what kinds of businesses, but getting good data requires workplaces to supply accurate information about incidents.
“Achieving this requires people to fully and accurately complete workplace accident reports and return them to the Department of Labour. This is not happening at the moment.”
Percy says little meaningful headway is being made to reduce workplace accidents in New Zealand “and our experience working with hundreds of businesses shows that literacy issues play big part”. M

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