Been There. Done That. (Not)

By NZISM Master account


Kia koutou members and supporters of NZISM. I have recently read Been there. Done that – a report into New Zealand’s repeated health and safety failings, released from the Business Leaders' Health and Safety Forum, and if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, here is a quick summary. I do qualify, however, it's not for the faint-hearted, and a depressing read.

In response to the findings in the Forum's 2023 State of a Thriving Nation report, which exposed Aotearoa New Zealand's sluggish and costly safety improvements, the Business Leaders' Health and Safety Forum established a task force. This group, comprised of experienced leaders, CEOs, and directors, was tasked with identifying the root causes of the problem.

It highlights the following areas of concern:

  • Stalled National Strategy. The 2018-2028 Health and Safety Strategy lacks an action plan and clear ownership.
  • Unclear regulations with businesses confused by our current regulations which lack practical guidance and are somewhat slow to adapt to changing practices.
  • Inconsistent enforcement creating uncertainty for businesses and failure to deter poor safety practices.
  • Fragmented oversight with no central coordination across government agencies which weakens the overall health and safety system.

The report proposes five recommendations for a system overhaul to kickstart significant progress.

  1. Revamp the National Strategy with a clear action plan, strong leadership, and accountability measures.
  2. Prioritise implementing core regulations with clear guidance documents to provide businesses with a roadmap for best practices.
  3. Ensure clear and fair enforcement to hold PCBUs accountable and incentivise safety leadership.
  4. Establish independent oversight by creating an independent body with industry leaders and workers to monitor progress and drive improvement.
  5. Develop a central hub for government and industry health and safety data to inform evidence-based decision-making – something I’d personally love to see.

The report urges immediate action to turn the tide on New Zealand's workplace safety record. To be blunt, it reflects concerns I believe many of us have held for some time. Many of the calls echo what you’ve told us in the recent NZISM survey. The Taskforce calls on the Government to invest heavily in health and safety reform, guidance and enforcement at a time when our public service is experiencing widespread cuts. We agree.

It is timely, then, that the Government has launched a consultation on the work health and safety regulatory system. This consultation seeks feedback on how organisations approach health and safety decisions; the clarity of health and safety regulations; how workers are involved in safety practices; interactions with regulators; and the overall effectiveness of the work health and safety system. They are also open to hearing our thoughts on any other aspects of this system and it is important that NZISM and our members have a voice in this process.

Submissions will close on 31 October 2024; you will hear more from us at NZISM on this in the coming months. The Minister will also be travelling the country and we encourage you to go along to public sessions of her roadshow.

Ngā mihi

Robyn Bennett
President, NZISM