Too much serious workplace harm

For the first time key health and safety statistics have been brought together in an annual State of Workplace Health and Safety in New Zealand report. It will track progress in five key targets: fewer injuries and fatalities, less occupational disease, lower economic cost, improved industry and employee engagement and increased response to government activity.

“This is the first snapshot of the state of workplace health and safety in New Zealand, which shows that about 9500 incidents are reported to the Department of Labour annually,” says Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson. “We want to see that number declining, particularly with regard to serious harm injuries. Over time this report will allow us to better monitor the rate and costs of workplace harm and what effect safety campaigns or initiatives are having.” The report concedes government interventions need to be better targeted and monitored.

In the past 12 months there have been 85 workplace deaths, 445 serious non-fatal injuries and 30,800 ACC entitlement claims costing about half billion dollars. New Zealand has about 470,000 workplaces and two million workers. The report estimates occupational disease leads to 700 to 1000 fatalities and 17,000 to 20,000 new cases year – asthma, skin diseases and asbestos-related cancer are big contributors

The sectors with consistently high work tolls are construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing and manufacturing – and the Department of Labour is developing specific action plans for each industry. The first plan for construction was launched last week.

“The report shows that industry and employee engagement in health and safety is generally high, with most medium to large businesses encouraging employee participation in health and safety and providing training for staff,” says Wilkinson.

“We’ve also seen more than 125 business and government leaders sign up to the Business Leaders’ Forum with the goal of achieving zero harm workplaces, which is good start.”

The report is compiled by the Department of Labour and will be released annually. For copy of the inaugural report visit http://www.dol.govt.nz/.

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