Has New Legislation Reduced Workplace Deaths?
Has the new legislation managed to reduce the number of workplace deaths in New Zealand? In short, the answer is no.
The updated Health and Safety legislation issued a year ago was designed to make workplaces safer and prevent workplace deaths. But despite the new legislations and the tightened regulations, seven people have died in workplace related accidents within a recent three-week period.
What is causing it? Could these deaths be prevented? Let’s explore what is happening.
In April 2016, new Health and Safety at Work Act came into force. It was introduced in response to the Pike River Mine Tragedy where 29 men lost their lives in a workplace explosion. In the first year of the new legislation, WorkSafe New Zealand have issued more than 3400 prohibition, improvement and infringement notices to employers in an effort to improve workplace safety.
The act is designed to give workers the highest possible level of protection by preventing harm to their health, safety and welfare from workplace related risks. In theory, workers should be protected by minimising the risks related to their jobs.
Because every workplace is different, the act is designed with a flexible nature to be practical for small and large businesses alike, and stretch across many industries. Many experts have put a lot of time and research into compiling the best safety legislation possible.
So with all these preventative measures, why are there still a large number of workplace deaths occurring?
A Change in Perspective
Now that we have very strong legislation in place to support the safety of our nation’s workers, we need to shift the mindset of the workers to fall in line with the legislation. All the regulations in the world will not help if the behaviours in the workplace don’t change.
Health and Safety is at the front of employer’s minds now – people are more aware of the importance of safety practices. Now the challenge is to translate that awareness to safer workplace behaviours.
Systems are being implemented to manage the risks to workers, but often the same tasks are still being performed in the same ways. A key example is the use of dangerous items like quad bikes and tractors in the farming sector. Farmers are aware of the risks, but are still required to perform the same high risk activities and they are effectively completing them in the same way they always have.
What Is the Solution?
You need to focus on the activities that are the most dangerous at your workplace. Regardless of what the legislation says, only you know the high risk areas at your place. Ensure that you have safe practices in place for these particular areas and activities.
The most integral part of the process is ensuring that your team members are fully aware of those practices. Provide them with the tools to keep themselves safe at work and then monitor how they are following the practices.
New Zealand has come a long way where Health and Safety is concerned. Now it is time to match the everyday practices to the protective legislation.
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Looking for more personalized assistance? Then our expert Health and Safety Consultants can help you with advice tailored specifically to your workplace.