New Zealand’s Occupational Health & Safety culture is on course to change

Written for the Fire Protection Association of New Zealand June 2015 newsletter by Nicky Vaughan, Safety First’s Principal Health, Safety & Wellness Consultant.

New Zealand’s Occupational Health & Safety culture is on course to change

New Zealanders are known to be resilient, hard-working and for having a “no. 8 wire” mentality which has seen our country’s economy grow but, unfortunately, this has come at a cost to many families.

On average 75 people die each year at work, between 600-900 die due to work-related diseases and 1 in 10 employees are harmed whilst at work in New Zealand.

These incidents cost organisations and tax payers up to $3.5 billion per year. 

The government recognises that change needs to be made to reduce these incidents and, in response, have set a target of reducing all serious and fatal incidents in the workplace by 25%, by 2020. The government has acknowledged that legislative change is required to legally reinforce these targets and as such, the Occupational Reform Bill has been written and is currently with Parliament for comment.

If it is passed, the Health & Safety in Employment Act will be replaced with the Health and Safety at Work Act. In addition to this legislative change, there are a number of regulations that are also being reviewed to compliment the Act.

But what does this mean for FPANZ members?

As well as placing stricter requirements to identify health and safety risks within your own organisation; ensuring the safety of yourself and your workers whilst at work are managed appropriately; having an effective OH&S management system in place; providing information, training and supervision; ensuring your workers have adequate welfare facilities and consulting with workers on health and safety issues that may affect their health and wellbeing, your clients will be more reliant on the services you provide for them.

Fire is one of the biggest risks faced by businesses, not necessarily because of the likely occurrence but the devastating consequences a fire can have on a business. 

A very large proportion of organisations are managing this risk well but with this legislative change, there will be a greater requirement to have a holistic approach to fire management from fire safety consultants providing accurate and professional advice and reports to clients, through to due diligence shown by clients on the properties in which they occupy.

There is an onus on building owners and or property managers to ensure all fire safety systems within their respective buildings are appropriately maintained and lastly, each and every occupant of a workplace has a role and responsibility to play.  Not only will key emergency personnel be trained but also ALL workers must be provided with continuing information, education and training.