The Health and Safety Reform Bill* introduced by the New Zealand government is relatively complex – spanning a total of 312 subsections – but one headline statistic grabs attention more than most.
By 2020, the ultimate aim is to reduce the number of workplace injuries and deaths by 25 per cent. The new legislation forms a part of the overarching 'Working Safer: a blueprint for health and safety at work' scheme introduced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
Fortunately, the number of deaths and injuries in the work-related arena is already falling steadily across New Zealand, but as outlined in a report from the MBIE**, a sustained effort is needed to ensure it continues to drop.
Comparison between New Zealand and Australia
To an extent, the report has been put together with goings on in Australia in mind. The New Zealand statistics have been collated and compared accordingly with its neighbour's. Starting with data from 2008, workplace injury statistics in Australia were following a downward trend, while the figures for New Zealand hit a plateau.
Even when injuries that relate to natural disasters are taken into account – such as the Canterbury earthquake in 2011 – the latter of the two countries still lagged some way behind. Research from Safe Work Australia*** outlined the difference between the two with reference to compensation sought by workers, again with Australia coming out on top with a lesser overall percentage of cases.
While New Zealand is beginning to show signs of starting its own downward trend when it comes to workplace injuries and fatalities, it is likely that the example of Australia will be followed. The similarity between the legislation will bring the two countries more in line with each other, which will ideally see work health and safety on the whole streamlined across the region.
The New Zealand government has been quick to point out that more collaboration is needed between all of the involved parties. They will do their best to streamline the laws – courtesy of the aforementioned reforms – while organisations should take the opportunity to make any work health and safety training more robust.
WorkSafe New Zealand will also play an active role in encouraging businesses to better understand the risks that are posed to workers with the long-term target in mind.
Employee inductions will remain incredibly important as educating staff about the risks they face is one the best defenses in efforts to reduce the number of workplace injuries and fatalities.
*New Zealand Legislation, 'Health and safety reform bill'.
**Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Working safer: Progress towards the 2020 target'.
***Safe Work Australia, 'Comparative performance monitoring report'.