Government seeks submissions on workplace fatalities

By Regan Paranihi

The Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Iain Lees-Galloway has today launched a health and safety reform consultation that focuses on reducing risk in areas such as machinery, structures and working at heights.

The consultation will be run over a three-month period and government officials are seeking submissions on the matter.

"It's about modernising our regulations, some of them are over 40 years old, they are no longer fit for purpose," says Iain Lees-Galloway.

On average, 58 people die from workplace deaths every year and the majority of those deaths are in construction, forestry and working at heights.

"Three-quarters of workplace deaths over the last decade or so have either involved plants and machinery, vehicles or have involved falls from heights so we recognise it across a number of sectors that those are risk areas and that's exactly why we are specifically focusing on those."

The Māori Vice President of the Council for Trade Unions, Sydney Keepa, says those making decisions need to get amongst the action themselves.

"I think virtually they should go out to the coal place and look at what the workers on the floor [do], what they think the policy should be on health and safety."

He says those with degrees and those sitting in offices shouldn't have the final say in this industry when it comes to health and safety.

"They should go out to the workers in the bush with a chainsaw, take that management away from them and talk to them individually about what they feel a good health and safety policy should be."   

The minister says that this will be a long process but one that needs to be done.

"This will take time but I think it's important that we take the time to get it right.  But, it is important that we work with the sectors that are involved and make sure that we get these regulations right and they are fit for purpose."

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is seeking submissions by 4 October.