23 Feb 2013

New agency to police workplace health and safety

6:57 pm on 23 February 2013

The Government is setting up a stand-alone agency to police workplace health and safety.

The agency was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Pike River mine disaster and legislation will be introduced in June this year to set it up.

Twenty-nine men died in a series of methane explosions at the underground coal mine on the West Coast that began on 19 November 2010. Two men managed to get out to safety.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges says the establishment of the agency underlines the Government's commitment to reducing the number of workplace deaths and serious injuries.

Mr Bridges says the Government has a firm target of cutting injury and death rates by 25% within seven years.

"It's also part of a wider programme. This year will be a busy year for health and safety and this is a first step in cementing in some changes to get a reduction in workplace deaths and serious injuries."

The agency will take over workplace health and safety responsibilities currently held by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and is expected to be operating by December.

Labour Party MP Darien Fenton says the Government is putting lives at risk by moving too slowly to establish the agency.

"Every day someone's injured and every week someone dies. We've got highly dangerous industries like forestry, for example. So of course it's going to happen, and I would hate to think that we were doing nothing and just allowing things to continue for another year."

Ms Fenton says there are changes that could be put in place now, rather than waiting for the new agency to be set up.