A death or serious injury in the workplace is a tragedy. It’s an incident that’s traumatic, preventable and sadly all too common in New Zealand. Most days nobody goes to work expecting to get really hurt or to die, but for some, that’s exactly what happens. Some people (approximately 40-50 every year), with family and friends, with interests and a favourite song, will get up in the morning, get ready for the day, go into their workplace and die.

 

Here are the statistics:

 

Workplace Safety in 2017

For most of these industries, it’s commonplace to work in hazardous environments. All of these workplaces would have or should have had an up-to-date health and safety plan. Workers know that at times there will be risks, regardless, these deaths still occurred. This indicates that the current plans or equipment in place are not enough to prevent a high prevalence of death.

Sadly, New Zealand has one of the most alarming rates of deaths for a developed nation. It’s really clear not enough is being done to protect workers in these industries. The Government has taken notice of this, their recent work with Worksafe New Zealand has introduced a plan for safer working environments. This is called Working Safer Fatality And Serious Injury Reduction Target”.

 

The New Zealand Government’s Initiative

The plan was created with the mission of reducing New Zealand’s alarmingly high fatality rate in the workplace. It has the goal of reducing the number of deaths by 25% by the year 2020. It also targets serious injury occurrence. This is a necessary proactive approach that realises that with a growing economy, comes an increasing rate of workers in the at-risk industries and with this, can come the rise of death rates for these workers.

The New Zealand Government should be applauded for this initiative. However, the most important part of this movement is the action of employers and the application of new processes by workers in these industries. A drive towards better health and safety practises needs to be supported by all those involved and affected by the addressed factors.

 

Promoting Healthy Workplaces or Avoiding Injury?

One of the most important things a business owner or operations manager in these industries can do is undertake regular risk and hazard assessments. These processes provide important information on the risk factors plaguing a specific workplace and offer solutions to reduce the dangers faced.

It’s also essential to ensure that the proper safety equipment is put in place to protect workers. This means that once the risks are properly analysed and addressed, proper materials are installed in the workplace to reduce potential harm.

Following this, education is required for all workers and visitors that are in or around the workplace. Due to the subjective nature of education, this process can be one of the most complicated for a workplace.

It’s easy to overlook things, to think certain aspects of safety are obvious or to become complacent in the everyday operation of a business. But, as the reports show, people are still dying and getting hurt, even with the regulations for risk assessment and safety equipment. It’s clear that more attention needs to be paid to communication and education around safety in the workplace.

Promoting a healthier workplace is beneficial for all. Regular reminders of the dangers facing workers and how they are prevented can only make positive improvements. It’s important to create an environment of safe practices and to ensure a team is looking out for their colleagues and themselves.

 

Is Preventing Risk Enough?

Is it enough to merely focus on the prevention of injuries and death? Occupational health and safety organisations around the world agree that no, it’s not. Workplaces cannot think that their only focus should be on the prevention of risk.

A lot of the time it is not a singular hazard that will cause an injury. Incidents are caused by a multitude of factors, many of these involve employees; their knowledge, their individual actions and how a workplace coincides with these components.

To move towards safer workplaces in New Zealand, we require safety systems that aren’t just reactive, but are proactive and effective. Outdated safety regulations do not protect our workers enough anymore. Older ways of doing things are not good enough for the larger, more technical and more dangerous settings workers now operate in. Economic growth calls for change in the future of workplace safety.

 

Future safety programs need to acknowledge, comprehend and address the following factors:

  • Laws and regulations

  • Preventative measures for injury, sickness and death

  • Worker engagement

  • Community engagement

  • Workplace support

  • Cost reduction

  • The importance of productivity

  • Social responsibility of the business and the individual employees to act responsibly

 

Nobody wants an unsafe workplace. Workers do not, families do not and employers do not. Any life is more important than any business. It’s crucial that workplaces are properly operated so they follow protocols and go further than the minimum requirements.

The future of workplace safety in New Zealand requires in-depth acknowledgement that in 2017, not enough is being done. The future of workplace safety needs more engagement, more investment and more acknowledgement to be up-to-par with worldwide standards, and our own.