Everyone in New Zealand should come home from work healthy and safe. Where work involves machinery, equipment, tools, vehicles, structures, heights or excavations this is sadly often not the case.
Machinery, equipment, tools and structures are involved in 76 per cent of fatal injuries at work. That’s 58 people every year who don’t make it home to their families.
We need to and can do better for our workers, businesses and communities. A sound, comprehensive regulatory framework is fundamental to ensure businesses know what to do to keep people healthy and safe and ensure that workers are protected from harm.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Pike River Coal Mine tragedy and the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety found that regulations and guidance for health and safety at work were piecemeal and ad hoc, were weak and outdated in places, contained gaps, were hard to understand, and did not support businesses to fulfil their obligations.
Since those inquiries, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, new regulations, and efforts from regulators and industry, have done a lot to strengthen our framework. The new Health and Safety at Work Strategy 2018-2028 sets an ambitious vision for the system over the next ten years. But there is more work to do. Outdated regulations carried over from the previous Health and Safety in Employment regime must be modernised, clarified and strengthened to effectively address harm.
Machinery, equipment, tools, structures, heights and excavations are the priority topics I am progressing in this next stage of reform because they target the most harm for the most people.
These things cause unacceptable harm. They are prevalent in our most risky sectors – forestry, agriculture, construction and manufacturing.
This discussion paper seeks to confirm the nature and scale of the problems workers and businesses are facing and asks for feedback on options to address them. It’s not about regulating for the sake of it – it’s about taking a targeted and proportionate approach to supporting businesses to be good employers and protecting workers from death, serious injury and ill-health.