National Action Agenda 2010–2013
A New Action Agenda for Workplace Health and Safety
This Action Agenda sets a new direction for action under the national Workplace Health and Safety Strategy. The key drivers for this change in approach are as follows:
New Zealand's work toll is too high, and the rates are not falling. At an estimated $16 billion a year, the cost is around 10% of gross domestic product.
Evidence shows that:
- workplace injuries are killing about 100 people a year
- more than 700 people die prematurely from work-related illness or disease every year
- more than 200,000 people are seriously harmed every year, requiring them to make an ACC claim
- there are more than 17,000 new cases of work-related disease every year, with between 2,500-5,500 being classed as severe
- construction, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing and fishing consistently have above average fatal and major injury rates. These sectors account for 37% percent of all ACC claims (see profile in Appendix 1).
It is the Government's expectation that New Zealand's work toll will improve over the next 3 years.
In 2009, a review of the national Workplace Health and Safety Strategy found that clearer direction is needed to engage stakeholders at a workplace level. There was collective agreement that a more focused set of achievable actions will fill the gap between the high-level Strategy and activity on the ground.
The five priority areas highlighted by the review, which have guided the development of this Action Agenda, are:
- the need for a sector-based approach
- improved focus and delivery for occupational health issues
- improved workplace capability, guidance and standards (especially for small businesses)
- improved competency standards for health and safety professionals
- increased worker participation in workplaces, including health and safety representative training.
In the recessionary environment, many businesses have been forced to cut costs and have been under pressure to invest less in baseline expenses such as workplace health and safety. Indicators such as the incidence of workplace injuries tend to reduce in recessions, as fewer people are in work and reduced numbers of people are working longer hours.
However, when employment rises in the recovery period, health and safety injuries and fatalities may rise as hours of work increase and new workers are hired. The more rapid the recovery, the more marked this upward pressure is likely to be, particularly in sectors such as manufacturing and construction.
 New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, Volume 1 Risk Landscape, Report to the Department of Labour, May 2008.