One of the most fundamental rights at work is the right to come home at the end of the day healthy and safe. Now that work right, like so many others, has come under attack from National.
NOHSAC, the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee, was set up by Margaret Wilson in 2003 to provide research and advice on occupational illness. Independent, run by respected academics and frequently critical of the Department of Labour, NOHSAC did some great work during its short existence. Good, evidence-based stuff on how to identify occupational illness, who it affects and how to prevent it.
Now it’s been scrapped. No reason’s been given, not even a press release, but the word I’m hearing is that NOHSAC’s criticisms of the DoL didn’t go down too well. The DoL is very big on hard hats and not falling into woodchippers, where they’re weak is in protecting against the workplace-related illness and disease that can cripple and ultimately kill people later on in their lives. NOHSAC filled that gap.
Of course, the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, is not known for her knowledge of health and safety issues. At a recent Safeguard conference she claimed only 50 workers a year die from work-related causes (it’s actually 700-900), and completely ignored occupational illness. Given this woeful understanding of her brief it’s no surprse she let NOHSAC get canned, whether at the behest of self-interested Department officials or Bill English’s cost-cutting razor gang.
Either way, it’s working Kiwis and their families who’ll pay down the track through disease, illness and premature death. Just another ignorant, short-sighted fuckup from a government more interested in the ‘mood of the boardroom’ than the interests of the people working downstairs in the factory.