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Health & Safety

Written By: - Date published: 10:38 am, July 17th, 2012 - 12 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags:

Right now 28 miners are stuck down a Waihi mine with a fire causing noxious gases.  15 people are being decontaminated at Tiwai Point after an ‘incident’.  At 3.30am the driver of a truck-trailer loaded pressurised cylinders died after crashing into Bulls RSA – probably asleep from the fatigue 24% of truck drivers suffer from with their long shifts.  Yesterday a man fell 6 stories on a Fletcher Construction site in central Auckland and is now fighting for his life.

I hope and wish all those involved in these workplace accidents are brought home safe / suffer(ed) as little as possible.

The Department of Labour will investigate all these incidents, which will be a stretch given how National governments run down the department in charge of workers’ rights.

Hopefully the investigations will lead to safer work practices and fewer lives lost or damaged or risked.  Hopefully the DoL will be able to enforce the practices it recommends.

Except – it won’t be the Department of Labour, it will be Steven Joyce’s new White Whale MoBIE, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.  A ministry designed to be ‘Business-facing’, helping make businesses’ lives easier in their interaction with government.

Or for workers and their rights – a gamekeeper turned poacher if you will.

Here’s hoping the civil servants in the former Department of Labour section manage to shrug off pressure to make life easier for business and make it safer for workers.


12 comments on “Health & Safety”

  1. xtasy 1

    “The Department of Labour will investigate all these incidents” –

    same as crime stories with the comment line “the police are investigating” …

    I thought that after all that drama, the many tears, complaints raised and promises made by the government ministers after the Pike River Mine disaster was supposed to lead to an improvement in mine and work-place safety.

    Seems not much has changed. Nothing new in a society, where cost cutting, profits, asset sales, privatisation, outsourcing, lowering of standards are more important than the well-being of workers and citizens in general.

    • Populuxe1 1.1

      I thought that after all that drama, the many tears, complaints raised and promises made by the government ministers after the Pike River Mine disaster was supposed to lead to an improvement in mine and work-place safety.
      Seems not much has changed. Nothing new in a society, where cost cutting, profits, asset sales, privatisation, outsourcing, lowering of standards are more important than the well-being of workers and citizens in general.

      That’s rich. In case you hadn’t noticed, all 28 miners got out of the Waihi mine alive and relatively unscathed because appropriate safety measures were in place and followed. The safety concerns are after the fact – a result of the fire possibly making truck tires explode, not the cause.The unfortunate reality is that mining is inherently dangerous and therefore risk can only be minimalised, not entirely eliminated. I would also point out that Bunji’s assertion that the fire was producing toxic fumes is unfounded – the article says quite clearly “Mine safety expert Dave Feickert said the first hurdle for the rescuers would have been extinguishing the fire and removing the risk of any toxic fumes from that.”
      Before anyone starts huffing and puffing about National, I want statistics that things were any better under Labour. National do enough real shitty things as it is without people making it up out of thin air. Slander born of sour grapes just looks like crying wolf.

      • xtasy 1.1.1

        Pop: Yes, thank goodness, all went well.

        But I wrote that bit before they were rescued, and it was having a more general target.

        Just wait and see, how much will have been learned out of previous disasters. Only the observation of a longer period will show this.

        • Populuxe1

          It pays to read the posted links, xtasy. The first sentence of the first linked to article says
          “The 28 miners who were trapped for hours in a Waihi gold mine are all well and in good spirits.” With considerable detail on how satisfactory the safety precautions were.

          • Bunji

            History unfortunately gets rewritten on websites Populuxe1.
            When xtasy wrote the first comment the miners weren’t rescued, so the article certainly didn’t say they had been. When I linked to it, they were all still down there. Shortly after 13 were out, and then some hours later the last 15 were rescued. I would say it’s actually quite poor practice of stuff not to start a new story on each major development, rather than overwriting.

            Similarly when I linked to it the experts quoted were suggesting that with such a ferocious fire that caused smoke out the vents it would be causing noxious gases.

            • xtasy

              Thanks for that. I was sure that that is what happens, so now the critic should also understand this quite clearly, I “hope”.

      • Hayden 1.1.2

        …I would also point out that Bunji’s assertion that the fire was producing toxic fumes is unfounded…

        At the risk of being pedantic, I’ll think you’ll find that almost all fires produce fumes of varying (non-zero) toxicity.

        Okay, that was pedantic.

  2. Rodel 2

    often hear people deriding OSH as interfering b****s. My response ‘We kill 2 people a week in NZ industry, usually husbands and fathers..did you know that?” Usually makes them go silent if not think.

  3. Rosie 3

    For a small industrial country we have a bad track record of injury and death in the workplace in NZ. All too often H&S isn’t taken seriously, and at a cultural level too, as Rodel refers to above. It’s difficult then when you have the D.o.L’s function minimised and morphed into a Nat Govt ideological pet – the multi ministry. In the past, I’m thinking specifically the 2000’s, the D.o. L had produced some helpful worker orientated research and data which reflected its role within its workplace rights advocacy capacity, as well as being available to workers with grievances. Will the new employment wing of MoBIE even bother with undertaking research unless it is boss orientated?

    How can a minimised former Labour Department, in its new guise as part of MoBIE, act in a way that is beneficial to workers, ie, promotion, regulation and investigation of H&S practices when it’s prime responsibility is to promoting business success as a bottom line?

    Under this new regime it’s not likely that we will see numbers of workplace injury and death reducing any time soon.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      But we will see it increase at which point we need to charge this entire present government with murder.

  4. xtasy 4

    “MoBIE” – Yes, I love that, fittingly short for “MoBIE-DICK”.

    The latter part of that is presumably and superbly fitting for the “inventor” of that mega ministry of sorts.

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