The just-announced $22 million ACC fund to support the small-to-medium enterprise (SME) sector in reducing workplace injuries should help, according to the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA).
However, it will need careful monitoring and targeting to ensure it brings about the hoped-for benefits.
The EMA chief executive Kim Campbell says the creation of the fund acknowledges the sometimes significant costs SMEs could face to implement best practice accident and injury controls in the workplace.
"In some industries and sectors those costs are quite high, and many SMEs struggle with finding the funding to invest in those controls,” Mr Campbell says.
“So we welcome the fund as very helpful assistance for these businesses to keep their workers safe.”
ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has announced that $4.4 million per year would be made available through grants and subsidies over the next five years to help the SME sector reduce accidents and injuries in the workplace.
“We applaud the availability of subsidies for undertaking workforce training — we run many health and safety training programmes at the EMA,” Mr Campbell says.
“But in addition, ACC might get good bang for its (the taxpayer’s) buck by a targeted approach focused on technology and innovation that will save future injury costs.
“There have been other schemes in the past that targeted the sector and, for various reasons, they have been shut down.
“What we need to ensure is that the grants and subsidies are provided to industries and sectors where risks are higher, so that the reduction in accident costs that ACC believes will come about as a result of the scheme do actually occur.
“That might mean targeting sectors such as construction, forestry, manufacturing, healthcare and social assistance where there are known risks or higher accident rates, and using the grants and subsidies to pay for innovative systems or new technology that might otherwise be inaccessible to those in the SME sector because of their tight access to funding,” Mr Campbell says.
Site Safe chief executive Brett Murray says the ACC fund is welcome news.
“The creation of the new incentive programme recognises the high, sometimes prohibitive, costs faced by many of the SMEs who are eager to improve health and safety in their businesses.
“In an industry like construction, investing in health and safety can be expensive, and many SMEs struggle to find the funds to invest in best practice controls and systems," Mr Murray says.
“And although we have made some real gains in health and safety in construction, injuries in our sector still account for a large number of ACC’s severe injury claims.
“These new subsidies support investment in areas which we believe are vital to reducing injuries in the workplace — and it’s good to see that the Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, recognises the need to target the five key sectors with the greatest injury rates.
“Targeting those sectors which have a high proportion of SMEs, which includes construction, means that the funding is being used in the areas of greatest need.
“We welcome the fund as great news for all the Kiwi businesses in high-risk sectors who want to do their best to keep their workers safe.”