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Govt removing workplace safety measures - Labour

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Darien Fenton
Darien Fenton

Wellington, July 16 NZPA - The Government yesterday launched a forum made up of business leaders and the heads of the Department of Labour and ACC aimed at making work places safer but Labour says the Government is responsible for measures that will do just the opposite.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said the Business Leaders' Health and Safety Forum would help make workplaces safer.

So far this year 22 workplace fatalities were reported to the Labour Department. There were 68 in the 2009 year and 54 in 2008.

In workplaces there were about 6000 serious incidents a year.

"The success of the forum... rests on the power of chief executives to achieve change in their workplaces," Ms Wilkinson said.

"When they speak, their staff listen. When they make health and safety a business priority, change occurs, and that is good for this country."

Labour MP Darien Fenton said it was concerning that National was "returning to the old-fashioned view that health and safety is best managed by the employer and excluding workers or elected health and safety representatives".

National had halved resources for workplace health and safety education and other changes were having a negative impact, she said.

"...the systematic dismantling of ACC and a return to employers' experience rating, the disestablishing of the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee, the scaling back of important health and safety provisions like compulsory meal and rest breaks and threats to annual and other leave provisions."

Ms Fenton said meeting business leaders was good but real measures were needed not a "talk-fest with the bosses".

The Government's 90-day trial period for new workers could hinder people complaining about safety if they were worried they might lose their job, she also said.

Ms Wilkinson said a recent review of the Workplace Health and Safety Strategy for New Zealand identified the need for greater leadership.

"I'm encouraged that so many business leaders have made a commitment to drive a strong health and safety culture through their workplaces. Their employees and their businesses will be better off for it."

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