New group to focus on workplace safety and health
Monday 14 June 1999
The Labour Department has taken the opportunity resulting from new responsibilities to beef up its commitment to workplace health and safety.
The establishment of the new Workplace Safety and Health Group results from the introduction by the Government of competition in the delivery of workplace accident insurance.
The Department of Labour is responsible for administering the Accident Insurance Act 1998. Chief executive John Chetwin assumes the role of Accident Insurance Regulator.
This new role carries responsibility for ensuring the effective and lawful operation of the market for workplace accident insurance that takes effect on July 1, 1999.
The Regulator ensures that employers enter into, and maintain, adequate insurance contracts in respect of all work related personal injuries and that the self employed and private domestic workers insure themselves, or choose to remain with ACC.
"Part of the Labour Departments mission is to promote fair, safe and satisfying work opportunities. The Occupational Safety and Health Service is the most recognised group within the department for improving workplace safety," Mr Chetwin said.
"Less well known is the departments responsibility for providing policy advice and performance monitoring services relating to the operations of ACC.
"The Government believes a competitive accident insurance market will make a significant contribution to reducing workplace related personal injuries through a combination of clearer incentives, a greater range of insurance options, and more responsive compensation and rehabilitation services.
"Regulating this market is therefore complementary to the departments other responsibilities."
Mr Chetwin said the Regulators Office would sit alongside the departments existing Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Service within the new Workplace Safety and Health group.
"It makes sense to combine operational responsibilities for workplace safety and injury prevention within a single group. Both agencies are concerned with ensuring workplaces are healthy and safe for New Zealand workers," Mr Chetwin said.
This would provide alignment between the administration of the Health and Safety in Employment Act and the Accident Insurance Act by the department in its efforts to reduce employment related injuries and illness.
OSH general manager Bob Hill has been appointed as general manager of the Workplace Safety and Health group.
Mr Hill said the Regulators Office would be a discrete unit, aligned with but not integrated with OSH. However, while he would have the responsibility for managing both OSH and the Regulators Office, the work of, and the resources applied to the latter, would be kept separate.
Most of the costs of running the Regulators Office would be met by levies paid by registered insurance companies operating in the new market. Cost would therefore be subject to even more than the usual scrutiny.
To reassure those who were paying for the services concerning the regulation of the accident insurance market that best practice would be sought on an ongoing basis, it had also been decided to adopt the principle that all activities which might prudently be contracted out, would be put out to tender.
"As a result of accident insurance reforms, OSH will have access to a more comprehensive range of workplace accident information. This information will only be available at an aggregated level but will enable better research and more targeted injury prevention programmes," Mr Hill said.