O’Brien on health and safety

Written By: - Date published: 9:22 am, June 5th, 2015 - 22 comments
Categories: health and safety, national, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

It’s not often that you’ll catch Tova O’Brien holding the government to account, but when she does she doesn’t mince words:

National’s health and safety backdown disgrace

…Mark Samoa was one of 100 New Zealanders killed at work every year. That is our national average. It is an abysmal record and one you would expect every workplace, every employer in New Zealand to want to turn around.

Nope. Instead farmers, forestry, fishing – some of the most dangerous industries – are fighting to water down reforms which were born of the Pike River disaster.

The Government’s health and safety reforms have been five years in the making. Five years and it finally got through the select committee stage, and was on its way to becoming law at the end of last week. Top ministers wanted it, they knew it was needed – it could only get this far with John Key’s sign-off. The hard work had been done, business and unions had both had their say.

But just days before it was due to be finalised a mutiny within the National Party stymied the process and the Bill has been sent back to the drawing board to get watered down some more.

The Bill would require employers to appoint a health and safety representative if requested by their staff. That person would get a couple of hours training a year, they would assess any risks or hazards and have the right to direct workers to stop unsafe work – potentially preventing injury or death.

This is what farming, forestry and fishing is scared of – that the unions are coming by stealth.
First of all, electing health and safety representatives already exists in law – this just clarifies it. Secondly, try that argument with families who have lost loved ones at work.

It is far more concerning – disgraceful even – that it is worker safety that they [National] are squabbling over.

O’Brien identifies the delay as the work of the Collins faction, and that this is a power play by them. Go read the whole article at 3 News.

22 comments on “O’Brien on health and safety”

  1. odot 1

    Wait for the ‘common sense’ argument to be trotted out. Its just ‘common sense’ to not bring in extra ‘red tape’ health and safety laws, that would ‘stifle’ our ‘rock star’ economy. In 2012, the MBIE released this policy statement, stating a “25 percent minimum” targeted reduction of worker deaths by 2020 (http://www.dol.govt.nz/whss/state-of-workplace/index.asp#fig1). With the social and economic cost of work place accidents and illness at $3.5b, there is a massive monetary incentive to strengthen workers rights (not to mention those workers who wont needlessly die every year).

  2. Kiwiri 2

    Seems to me that the senior Nat ministers and PM need real help from the opposition MPs and also the wider public to pass honest, fair and remedial laws.

    The likes of cuckoo collins and her crazy faction cannot be allowed to undermine people’s interest for the sake of her own greedy and mad power ambitions.

  3. Tom Gould 3

    Hapless plodder Chester Burrows was widely reported in the media complaining “a farmer had been issued an infringement notice because five quad bikes helmets had each been hanging on a wall behind a bike, not on the bikes themselves.”

    Turns out there is no such law or bylaw and there was no ticket or fine. Someone just made it up, told him, and he repeated it as fact, and the media ran it on the front page. The public recoiled and the Tories canned the reform bill to the relief of those fearful of red-tape strangulation by the evil lurking bureaucrats.

    The late Senator Joseph McCarthy would be so proud to see his political progeny alive and well and running the show in far-off Tory Zealand.

    • RedBaronCV 3.1

      Along with some farmer saying that the chin strap on helmets was dangerous becaue a kid had died when his got caught. So what was the kid doing on a quad? That seemed to have passed this farmer by completely.


      The comments are interesting. Some going so far as to ask why isn’t Fed farmers taking a much greater lead in farm safety. Most factory owners wouldn’t let non workers in to play with the machinery so why should farmers think they are exempt. Having said that most farmers are likely to be as careful as they can be and no amount of education will get through to the “I know best crowd” .

  4. Tracey 4

    So, when someone is murdered in NZ, it tops the news of the day. And the investgation. Then the trial.

    MORE die in workplace accidents a year. Not all make the news. Not all get followed up by the media.

    “New Zealand’s murder rate appears to have almost halved in the past 20 years despite an overwhelming public belief that crime has got worse.

    Police statistics show that for 44 years until about 1970 the murder rate fluctuated around an average of six a year for every million people.

    The rate leapt to an average of 21 murders per million people annually from 1985 to 1992, but has dropped steadily ever since.

    Last year’s rate was 12.1 murders per million people.

    Victoria University Institute of Criminology director Michael Rowe said the decline coincided with similar falls in violent crime in Australia, the United States and Britain since the early 1990s.”


    Is there a suggestion we loosen up murder laws?

  5. Old Cudith Jollins, the sooner she is consigned to scrap heap the better off NZer’s will be.
    She is an embarrassment , a totally horrible woman.
    I guess one good thing though, if her party were silly enough to elect her as leader she would soon find out how great she wasn’t .

  6. SMILIN 6

    There is no bloody knowing how much stupidity this govt is capable of a bit like when I had a work accident and was in hospital and the next day after surgery I had an OSH rep turn up first thing in the morning who wouldnt go away until I signed away my right to question any of their actions in regard to the accident
    Fascism ring a bell anywhere
    And the meter $ are running and should be at the NACTS expense wasting the country’s valuable democracy because the way they are going there wont be one soon

  7. Sable 7

    Privileged, cosseted creeps who play games with peoples lives.

  8. b waghorn 8

    The litlle bit of muttering I’ve heard in farm circles has been about the share amount of paper work its creating and I heard that one of the new bits required a hazard I d for every tool on the farm which if true is ridiculous.

    • Sable 8.1

      If you had a chainsaw that was not accounted for and had not been safety checked how would you feel about using it? Just one example. Running a business requires paperwork. Why should farmers be exempt when lives are at risk.

      • b waghorn 8.1.1

        I have no problem with good rules and regulations but for it to get buy in from farmers it needs to be stream lined and simple . farmers are in general independent stubborn buggers ,what I think would work better then creating mountains of paper work, would be a yearly audit buy acc and a percentage off the there charges for good compliance.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          No, the best thing is for businesses to employ their own friggin’ auditors instead of trying to socialise their costs.

        • Sable

          Sorry but too bad about them. I ran a business for 14 years and if I did not do my paperwork of which there was a fair bit Id be up to my eye balls in IRD auditors. You want to do business you behave professionally. End of story.

    • KJT 8.2

      We have to do that.

      In fact it is already common in most industries.

      In real first world countries, it is just accepted practice.

      • b waghorn 8.2.1

        From my time in the forestry in nz I noticed that in the heartland forestry areas like Rotorua the culture was very good but when I worked in the frontier forestry areas like coastal wairarapa it was cowboy country.

    • Tracey 8.3

      Paperwork? Surely you buy a helmet ($50) and wear it each time you get onto the quad-bike. Keep the receipts and maybe get someone to take photos of you riding the bike with the helmet.

      Or, stop using the quad-bike.

  9. adam 9

    I’ve been thinking about this for a few days. And the only possible answer I can come up with is.

    The Tories are scared.

    This was a panicky move, one which, when the dust settles, will make national look weak.

  10. Atiawa 10

    Common sense is over-rated.

  11. Mike the Savage One 11

    NZ has amongst the OECD countries not a good health and safety rating, and it shows again. Judith Collins appears to have got a bit “cocky” again, perhaps because her friend Slater dared to throw more dirt at the opposition and Andrew Little and so. We learned more via the Nation today, and knowing Collins is a loyal friend of Slater and also loves to pay back twice, we can work out the rest.

    So this is nothing short of an attempt to regain power within the Nats caucus, make no doubt about it, it is an attempt to undermine John Key and ready herself for the follow up leader. But let her succeed, she is such an arrogant, right wing, nasty person, they will lose heaps of votes if she take s over, let her have a go, the nasty one, perhaps.

  12. Skinny 12

    Well done Tova must be the Irish blood coming out in you ‘ finally’.

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