Workplace Health and Safety Strategy for New Zealand to 2015
The national priorities outlined in this section will help to focus the Strategy’s objectives more sharply and target resources more effectively.
These priorities account for a significant proportion of all work-related diseases and injuries in New Zealand. They also reflect a need to focus on emerging issues, and to help businesses and groups of workers who have particular needs or are at more risk. They are:
- airborne substances
- workplace vehicles
- manual handling
- slips, trips and falls
- psychosocial work factors
- vulnerable workers
- small business
- high-risk industries.
These are national priorities. Particular industries will need to develop their own list - although it is very likely that there will be an overlap between an industry’s priorities and the national priorities.
Airborne substances include fumes, dusts, gases, mists, vapours, viruses, and bacteria that cause occupational cancers, respiratory diseases (including occupational asthma), and other work-related illnesses. Specific examples in the workplace include asbestos, wood dust, welding fumes, and solvents. Airborne substances are a priority for this Strategy because they are the leading cause of premature death from occupational disease in New Zealand.
Vehicles are the single largest cause of work-related injury death in New Zealand. The average vehicle-related injury is often severe because of the violent forces involved. Workplace vehicles include trucks, cars, tractors, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), motorbikes, forklifts, boats, and aircraft.
Manual handling work requires a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, or otherwise handle an object. Examples include lifting boxes, packing in a supermarket, cleaning tasks, operating machinery, using hand tools, and handling hospital patients. Poor manual handling practice can lead to musculoskeletal diseases and injuries including sprains and strains, overuse disorders, and damaged spinal discs. These account for a large proportion of work-related ACC claims.
Slips, trips and falls
Slips, trips and falls result in significant numbers of ACC claims for work-related injury, and are often caused by untidy work areas. Falls from heights are a common cause of death and serious injury in the workplace - and they are a major issue for the construction industry.
Psychosocial work factors
Psychosocial work factors include excessive workloads, low job control, and aggression and violence at work. In some people, exposures to these work factors can contribute to chronic fatigue, stress-related disorders (such as anxiety and depression), alcohol and drug abuse, heart disease, upper limb musculoskeletal disorders, and suicide. Personal characteristics play an important role in determining whether psychosocial work factors will give rise to symptoms in a particular worker.
Some workers are at increased risk of work-related disease and injury. Such vulnerable workers may include children, young people, new workers, older workers, new migrants, people with low literacy or impairments, and those working in precarious employment. The protection and accommodation of vulnerable workers is required by international labour conventions and by domestic laws such as the Human Rights Act 1993, the HSE Act, and the Employment Relations Act 2000.
Small businesses and self-employed people account for a significant proportion of the New Zealand workforce. In comparison with large businesses, small businesses require special attention because the people in them are often less willing and able to manage health and safety (owing to time and finance constraints, other commercial pressures, and lack of knowledge). Small businesses and self-employed people are also harder to influence through regulation and incentive programmes.
Some industries, including petrochemicals and mining, have a high potential risk of catastrophic failure. While these types of events are rare they can claim many lives and severely damage the economy, vital infrastructure or the environment. In other industries, the hazardous nature of work leads to high rates of injury across the workforce. Examples of high injury-risk industries include construction and the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector. More work needs to be done to identify industries and sectors that are high-risk in term of occupational disease and health hazards.
The Strategy’s Action Plan 2005/06 outlines a programme of activities for government agencies and other key organisations.
The Action Plan contains new initiatives and existing activities that will be modified or improved (for example, through better co-ordination and collaboration). It identifies specific deliverables in terms of what is to be achieved, by when and by whom.
Further action plans will be developed in following years. The inclusion of specific deliverables in future action plans will depend on assessment of all possible options for achieving the outcomes, and on additional funding being made available in future government Budgets.
The Department of Labour will lead the ongoing development of the Strategy and action plans. The department will co-ordinate promotion and evaluation of the Strategy, monitor implementation, produce accountability reports, and collect and disseminate information through the Strategy’s website (www.dol.govt.nz/whss).
The WHSS Government Agency Group will continue to work with the Department of Labour to develop the Strategy, and provide a forum for co-ordination of activities across government.
Government agencies from the WHSS Government Agency Group will have lead roles in the implementation of the action plans. Other government agencies and non-government organisations will also be involved.
The governance arrangements for the Strategy are:
- Cabinet approves the Strategy and the action plans
- The Associate Minister of Labour is lead Minister for the Strategy, its implementation and progress reports
- An Injury Prevention Ministerial Committee will have oversight of this Strategy and other national-level injury prevention strategies developed under the New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy
- The Secretary of Labour is responsible for the Department of Labour’s performance in developing and implementing the Strategy.
A high-level advisory body will be established to provide leadership, and ensure consultation and co-ordination between representatives of government, employers and employees in relation to the Strategy and its delivery. This forum will provide advice directly to the Associate Minister of Labour.
The National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee will continue to provide independent, evidence-based advice to the Associate Minister of Labour on major occupational health and safety issues. This Committee will be asked to comment on the ongoing development and implementation of the Strategy.
The following mechanisms will ensure accountability:
- The Department of Labour will provide regular briefings to the Associate Minister of Labour on progress under the Strategy and the relevant action plan. It will also prepare annual reports and make these available to the public.
- Other government agencies will report to their respective Ministers about their work under the Strategy, as required. They will also provide the Department of Labour with information that will enable the department to brief the Associate Minister of Labour on progress and to produce annual reports.
- The Department of Labour will produce a series of reports on New Zealand’s workplace health and safety performance. These reports will include information on indicators that measure progress against the Strategy’s vision and outcomes.
- The Strategy will be reviewed after three years.
Evaluation will provide Ministers, government agencies, key stakeholders and other interested parties with information on:
- progress on implementation
- areas needing more attention or improvement
- the overall impact of the Strategy
- key performance indicators.
An evaluation framework will be developed and implemented by the Department of Labour in consultation with the advisory bodies and the WHSS Government Agency Group.
Key performance indicators
The Department of Labour will facilitate identification of a set of valid and reliable indicators for measuring progress towards the Strategy’s vision and outcomes. Where appropriate, these will be aligned with indicators developed for the New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy and other national-level injury prevention strategies.
Key performance indicators for the Workplace Health and Safety Strategy will include work-related disease and injury statistics, and also ‘positive’ performance indicators relating to workplace practices. For example:
- the rate of work-related deaths per 100,000 workers
- the rate of work-related illnesses and injuries resulting in hospitalisation per 100,000 workers
- the rate of work days lost due to work-related illnesses and injuries per 100,000 workers
- health and safety-related awareness and attitudes of business owners and senior managers
- the number of trained health and safety representatives
- levels of participation in industry accreditation programmes
- the proportion of central government agencies participating in either the ACC Partnership Programme or the ACC Workplace Safety Management Practices Programme.
The Department of Labour will work closely with the Statistics New Zealand Injury Information Manager to facilitate the routine reporting of key statistical indicators relating to workplace health and safety.
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