We, in NZ, Do Not Appear to Be Learning From Our Mistakes

Published September 07, 2022 (last updated September 27, 2022) Molly Chandran

Reports of a Hawke’s Bay roofing company being ordered to pay $65,000 in fines and reparations has prompted increased scrutiny over poor standards of workplace safety across New Zealand.

Carolyn Chalklen, Health and Safety Manager at Employsure, an Employment relations firm, representing over 31,000 clients across Australia and New Zealand released a statement reminding all workplaces to improve safety:

“There are some very real stand-outs from this incident.. The impact of serious injury and fatalities is far reaching, from the worker to others involved and of course their families.  We, in NZ, do not appear to be learning from our mistakes at a speed that would make a dent in our accident and incident statistics. “

A.C.C. reports over 36,000 claims from the construction industry in 2021[1], the highest of all industries, with manufacturing following with over 28,200 claims.

Of 23 sector groups a total of 52 work-related fatalities occurred in New Zealand between Feb 21 to Jan 22. Representing an average of 4.3 per month. Worksafe also reported 11 of these fatalities were in the Construction sector; 3 of which were falls from height or a fall from same height [2]

“It is not uncommon for young workers to be overlooked in the workplace. Young workers can appear to be fit and strong, knowledgeable, and willing to ‘earn a buck’ and who often feel that they need to prove themselves. Often overlooked is their lack of experience, their limited awareness of risk and the subsequent supervision required.” continued Ms. Chalklen

“A comprehensive risk assessment should always be undertaken for high-risk work. Businesses must identify the hazards and associated risks with all work activities and ensure control measures are put in place that are; suitable, adequate and regularly monitored. Businesses also have an obligation to ensure they are consulting with their workers when they carry out risk assessments; all stakeholders should be a part of this process.”

Employsure has provided guidelines to help businesses support young and often vulnerable workers including tips such as:

  • Giving the young worker appropriate, relative and ongoing training
  • A mentor or buddy system – they often look up to older more experienced workers
  • Safety inductions at each worksite for all workers ensuring you include young workers
  • Inclusion in safety aspects such as toolbox talks, assisting with site safety inspections and risk assessments
  • Ensure they know their responsibilities – to report, record, engage and participate, and escalate hazards, issues or concerns.
  • Ensuring ongoing communication, inclusion, training, mentoring, and encouraging open discussions about safety

Ms. Chalklen concluded: “While tragic, every accident and incident is preventable and an opportunity to learn. At Employsure, we believe that every worker has the right to go home safely.”

[1] Work injury statistics (acc.co.nz) [2] Fatalities | WorkSafe

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