​Health and safety reform consultation begins

By NZISM Master account


Kia koutou members and supporters of NZISM. Last Friday we saw the details of Minister Brooke van Velden’s consultation emerge via an announcement at Fieldays, a Ministerial press release, and consultation documents from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Health and safety professionals exist in a state of chronic unease but elements of the announcement spiked my cortisol.

I am worried that the Minister’s characterisation of health and safety as a “sea of orange road cones” and businesses spending “a huge amount of money” could serve as a prelude to deregulation and diminishing responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

Each year, dozens of people die from accidents at work. Hundreds more die from illnesses caused or exacerbated by their jobs. Thousands of people are permanently harmed by their work. We can do better but not if we see health and safety as a symptom of bureaucracy gone mad.

Does our system sometimes encourage safety clutter and unnecessary compliance? Yes. Can we do health and safety better as a country? Absolutely. Your responses to NZISM’s survey are an Aladdin’s cave of good ideas. Your responses suggest that the Act is largely fit for purpose but that we need to do much more as a system to provide support and guidance for PCBUs and workers to know what good performance looks like and how to keep people safe.

Lifting our game requires better planning and working together. We support calls for greater system coordination and bringing the Health and Safety Strategy to life. The Government needs to invest in the health and safety system. Doing so will save lives along with hundreds of millions of dollars of lost productivity and costs to the healthcare and ACC system. Here too I am uneasy. Buried deep in last month’s Budget was the news that WorkSafe needs to return $8.6 million of funding tagged for the implementation of plant and structures regulations - and we have already seen a number of key system players lose Government funding.

NZISM is looking to find commonality with others leading health and safety. Last week, we called a meeting of various leaders in health and safety such as the Business Leaders Health and Safety Forum, HASANZ, the EMA, and the CTU to discuss whether we hold commonly-held views on possible changes to health and safety laws. This week, we will call together a wider group to discuss this further.

I believe there is substantial consensus; I was struck by the similarity of the prescription of the Business Leaders Health and Safety Forum’s Taskforce 2.0 Report released last week and NZISM’s own survey the week before.

I encourage you to engage with the new consultation and put forward your thoughts and ideas. NZISM members are many of the most knowledgable people in the country about what works in health and safety. Engage with your local businesses and associations. We will support you and look to you to assist us in forming the NZISM position to share with decision makers.

Ngā mihi

Jeff Sissons