New health and safety system takes shape

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In December this year, the new stand-alone Crown agency WorkSafe New Zealand will assume oversight of the workplace health and safety system.
It is a significant step towards better health and safety outcomes for this country.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Health and Safety Group has begun laying the groundwork for the new agency.
Group deputy chief executive Lesley Haines says changes need to be made throughout the system to achieve the vision of safer and healthier workplaces in New Zealand.
“Our workplaces are currently not safe enough, and it is not only the regulator but also every business, every employer, every worker who must step up their focus on health and safety,” Ms Haines says.

“We have been working for some time to develop a more visible, targeted and effective approach to our work. In July we began operating a new inspectorate model designed to meet those objectives.
“The biggest change we’re making is to put more focus on proactively identifying potential harm-causing practices before people get hurt, rather than just reacting to events.

“Our inspectors will be spending more time out and about in workplaces — the implementation of our proactive identification approach will mean inspectors will undertake significantly more workplace assessments.
“Over time the number of inspectors will increase, so that will amplify the effect.

‘Firmer regulatory stance to be expected’
“Inspectors will focus on the sectors where we know the most deaths and other serious harm is happening — the areas where we know our intervention can make a significant impact — and, where required, businesses should expect a firmer regulatory stance from our inspectors.

“At least 80% of our workplace assessments will be targeted to industries outlined in the Health and Safety National Action Agenda 2010-2013.
“For 2013/14, we will concentrate on safer forestry harvesting, safe use of machinery in manufacturing, preventing falls from height in construction, quad bike safety and the Canterbury rebuild.
“Our hazardous substances focus will be automotive spray painting, and the boat building and metal finishing industries,” Ms Haines says.
“We’ll make that degree of focus possible by triaging all complaints against detailed criteria. We will still investigate accidents, but we will not respond in person to everything.

“Our specialist investigations team will ensure that our investigations are of a consistently high standard.
“Duty holders are responsible for workplace health and safety, and are required to do their own analysis of any incidents.
“In some cases, we will expect duty holders to report to us on what went wrong, what’s been done about it, and how they will ensure it won’t happen again. Inspectors will check these reports for completeness, and there’ll be support and guidance along the way,” she says.

Focus on highest risk areas
“This is a new approach for New Zealand, and it will free up our resources to maintain focus on the highest risk areas, on system-wide analysis and planning, and improving the consistency and quality of our work.
“There will be a lot of value too, for duty holders in examining their own health and safety practices, and taking more direct responsibility.

“These are significant changes that are designed to improve our contribution. New Zealand’s workplace health and safety record has to be turned around, and it will take all of us pulling in the same direction to do that.”

For more information go to www.business.govt.nz/healthandsafety.