Modern slavery and OHS

By NZISM Secretary


Kia ora koutou members and supporters of NZISM. I was chatting with one of our members, Jeff Cornwell, the other day and we got onto the topic of slavery. MBIE are open for consultation in relation to slavery and worker exploitation. They are asking for feedback on their proposed legislative framework for modern slavery, worker exploitation, forced labour, people trafficking and slavery.

It was interesting that within the information provided it was very specific that the framework does not include health and safety requirements which are, as they point out, a part of a separate legislative framework. And quite rightly so, given that this is coming from a legislative viewpoint, but I can’t help thinking that there is a significant crossover between modern day slavery and health and safety. The question for me is, how do the two link together and what we can do to leverage our work as members of the health and safety community to ensure that all workers, both domestic and foreign, are protected from such activities?

Last year, Greg Dearsly, (NZISM ex President and current INSHPO President), for World Health and Safety Day, flagged this and highlighted the need to address modern slavery and “raise awareness about these types of issues that have a global effect and stimulate discussions about creating resilient systems to enable businesses to keep their workers safe”.

Anecdotally, I feel I can state that those organisations that practice modern slavery are not particularly enthusiastic about engaging health and safety consultants or having a health and safety team within their organisation. So there is little opportunity from that perspective to identify or flag areas of concern. Similar to what's suggested in MBIE's consultation document, supply chain management and our procurement processes seem to be the most likely vehicles by which we can influence and support the legislation to reduce slavery.

Perhaps, as this legislation develops and becomes part of good business, there will be an opportunity for us to hold some open conversations about how we can incorporate slavery reduction aspects into our health and safety practices. It’s certainly a topic I think we need to explore further.

If you wish to contact me, please feel free to email

Ngā mihi,


Reference - MBIE Consultation on Modern Slavery and Worker Exploitation