30 Apr 2013

New law recommended for workplace safety

10:11 pm on 30 April 2013

An independent taskforce is recommending a new law be created for workplace health and safety, saying the current system is not fit for purpose.

Each year, one in 10 workers is injured and about 200,000 claims are made to the Accident Compensation Corporation.

The manufacturing, construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing industries account for more than half of all workplace injuries.

The report by the Workplace Health and Safety Taskforce says the current act should be dumped, workers need greater protection and penalties should be increased.

Taskforce chairman Rob Jager told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Tuesday a law that better defines the responsibilities of the employer and employee is urgently needed.

"We're recommending an act that is based on the Australian model law that's a recently developed and tried and tested piece of legislation. We think it's got all the components that we need for New Zealand."

The report calls for a stand-alone agency. Mr Jager said that would provide a single point of accountability and be best placed to promote and regulate workplace health and safety. It would also co-ordinate educational and compliance activities.

Mr Jager said the Government's target of a 25% reduction in workplace fatalities and injuries by 2020 is realistic - but far from what a nation should aspire to.

Union wants more involvement

A union says the Government must follow recommendations made in the report and allow them more access to industries.

FIRST Union general secretary Robert Reid said the report partly blames New Zealand's poor health and safety record on unions having been weakened.

Mr Reid told Checkpoint unions are frustrated at being blocked from playing a useful role in industries such as forestry where 26 people have died since 2008.

"We are being refused time and time again by forest owners and forest managers to play any role in health and safety and it's absolutely frustrating for us when we see death after death."