Nine workplace deaths in fortnight “too high a price”
25 June 2007
The Department of Labour is urging workplaces to instil a culture of safety in the wake of nine workplace fatalities this month, which the Department describes as “too high a price for work”.
The Department of Labour's Group Manager of Workplace Services Maarten Quivooy confirmed that there has been an above average number of fatalities so far this month, with five fatalities last week (17 to 22 June) alone. These included: an Auckland construction worker who was crushed; a Taranaki lines worker electrocuted; a Waikato rail worker who was hit by a train; a Northland farmer crushed by a hay bale; and a second farmer, from Waikato, crushed by a tractor when it rolled on a hill.
There had only been 38 reported work-related deaths for the entire first 11 months of the year and Mr Quivooy says had June not seen this tragic spike in incidents, the 2006/2007 year may have set a record low for the number of workers killed on the job.
“With five days to go before the end of the year, we are still tracking to be below the 65 reported fatalities last year, but we have already passed the 47 reported workplace deaths of 2004/2005,” says Mr Quivooy.
He says that along with the cost in human life there are also consequences to family, friends, and work colleagues that often go unrecorded and unobserved. There are also costs to business in terms of the impact of a death in the workplace, as well as the loss of production created by the need to recruit and train new staff.
“Many consequences are unable to be measured directly as an economic cost such as the breakdown of a family unit due to an unexpected death,” he says. “The experience of being harmed at work can be devastating, with profound emotional consequences for all those involved.”
The Department of Labour promotes effective workplace health and safety management through a range of services: awareness raising, information and advice, industry sector engagement, and enforcement, where the Department is focused on holding people and firms to account for deliberate and negligent behaviour that leads to unsafe work practices.
Mr Quivooy says New Zealand has seen an important shift in attitude in recent years with most workplaces now accepting that worker health and safety is important. But imbedding this attitude into the culture of a workplace was harder, and he says that both management and workers have an important role to play in making this happen.
“The development of a healthy and safe workplace can be driven by management’s awareness that good health and safety is not just good for their staff, but good for their business. Firms can ‘win’ by realising that acting in a socially responsible way is also the economically sensible thing for their business.
“But good health and safety is also about creating demand for health and safety from the bottom up. The demand for good health and safety systems can come from within the business itself, direct from the shop floor. This is where health and safety representatives come in.
“Health and safety reps can help build deeply held values and beliefs in workplace health and safety. Health and safety representatives can be part of staff engagement, helping deliver the real benefits of having staff engaged in the company’s goals.
“Managers and business leaders can support building workplace cultures by promoting and supporting the position of health and safety representatives,” says Mr Quivooy.
|So far this year||47|
To the journalist: please note that health and safety services formerly referred to as Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) should now be referred to as the Department of Labour.