The two realities of Health and Safety at work will be on show this week

Written By: - Date published: 3:46 pm, July 19th, 2015 - 7 comments
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This week three big things are happening which will show how detached this Government is from the realities of workers and their families working in dangerous workplaces.

  1. The private prosecution over the death  of Eramiha Pairama

Aged 19, killed in a forest in December 2013.  Remember that year – 10 dead in forestry.  Well this kid was one of them and the NZCTU begins the private action on this case tomorrow in the District Court in Rotorua.  It is being taken under the current law and it is not fair to comment too much today but it is worth remembering Eramiha was killed in a small workplace.

2.  The Coroners hearing into the death of Charanpreet Dhaliwal.

Aged 22, killed in 2011 on his first night at work as a security guard.  The justice system and current health and safety law has failed Charanpreet miserably, and all that is left if this hearing which begins on Wednesday this week on the North Shore in Auckland.  The CTU is providing legal representation to Charanpreet’s family.  It is worth remembering that Charanpreet was killed in a small workplace.

3.  The report back of the Select Committee on the new Health and Safety Reform Bill on Friday.

This Bill recommended by the Governments Taskforce on Health and Safety following the Pike River explosion had a huge level of consensus for it.

It is now being watered down including in the most important area recognised by both the Taskforce and the Pike Inquiry – worker participation.

Workers in every workplace under the current law can elect to have health and safety reps and it was intended this continue in the new law and the roles of these reps be extended. Reps are then entitled to undertake approved training (approved by the Minister) and once they have done that they have the rights and functions listed below.

Along with other nasty changes the Government intends to remove the right of workers in workplaces under 20 to have these reps – removing all these functions and rights from these workplaces unless they are separately regulated as “high risk”.  The Minister has even suggested to us that agriculture may be excluded from this group – and security?

Business, workers and families have objected to these changes which will shift us backwards not forwards.  And all in a week where two real families with real workplace deaths fight for justice. 


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Functions and powers of health and safety representative

(a) to represent the workers in the work group in matters relating to health and safety:

(b) to investigate complaints from workers in the work group regarding health and safety:

(c) if requested by a worker in the work group, to represent the worker in relation to a matter relating to health and safety (including a complaint):

(d) to monitor the measures taken by the person conducting the business that are relevant to health and safety:

(e) to inquire into anything that appears to be a risk to the health or safety of workers in the work group arising from the conduct of the business or undertaking:

(f) to make recommendations relating to work health and safety:

(g) to provide feedback to the person conducting the business about whether the requirements of this Act or regulations are being complied with:

(h) to promote the interests of workers in the work group who have been harmed at work, including in relation to arrangements for rehabilitation and return to work.

Rights of a Health and Safety rep include:

(a) attend an interview concerning work health and safety between a worker whom the health and safety representative represents and an inspector; or the person conducting the business at that workplace or the person conducting the business representative.

(b) to  enter and inspect a workplace after giving notice or without notice if there is an incident or situation of serious risk

(c) request a person conducting the business to provide any information necessary to enable the health and safety representative to perform his or her functions or exercise his or her powers.

(d) be assisted by another person for the purposes of performing or exercising his or her functions

(e) accompany and  inspector in the workplace or consult with the regulator or inspector about any work health and safety issue

And the person conducting the business must consult with the Rep,  meet with them as requested, allow the rep to spend time doing their job, provide the info necessary to do the job including info about hazards etc, allow them to have access to the workplace,  and most importantly if a health and safety representative makes a recommendation regarding work health and safety, the person conducting the business must adopt the recommendation or  provide a written statement to the health and safety representative setting out the reasons for not adopting the recommendation.  There are fines for employers that don’t meet these obligations.

 Reps will also be able to issue provisional improvement notices under the new law if they reasonably believes that a person is contravening, or is likely to contravene, a provision of this Act or regulations.  They must consult the person first and unless the notice is challenged with an inspector, the contravention must be remedied. This makes them the eyes and ears every day at the workplace.


7 comments on “The two realities of Health and Safety at work will be on show this week”

  1. Atiawa 1

    When a percentage of the workforce is excluded from Health & Safety laws on the basis of employee numbers it sends a message to all those involved in that business that H&S is not required to be taken seriously.
    It beggars belief that a government is remotely considering a different set of standards and laws for a smaller group of workers in comparison to a business who employs more workers. It’s like having a lower breath alcohol limit for drivers in country areas because there are fewer vehicles on the road compared to cities & towns.

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    The National Party is a clear and present danger to New Zealanders, and therefore, our national interests. Its policies do direct economic, physical, social and environmental harm, and they’re for sale to party owner/donors.

    Their civil war takes a heavy toll.

    • Atiawa 2.1

      Absolutely OAB.

      I admire your ability to sum up the realities of divide & rule politic’s.

  3. RedLogix 3

    I don’t know that I can add anything more to Helen’s very clear and direct analysis above. One small detail I can add – which is very much a tangent to the workplaces deaths and injuries is the rather odd way in which agriculture is being treated.

    In particular Federated Mountain Clubs has made a submission and a release stating:

    Health and Safety Bill threatens outdoor access.

    Hunters, Trampers, Climbers and Mountain Bikers are adding their voice to those calling for changes to proposed health and safety legislation that threatens to ‘lock gates’ in rural communities.

    The Health and Safety Reform Bill removes a specific provision in the current legislation which limits landowners responsibility to recreationalists and replaces this with a provision that all landowners must do what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to ensure the safety of all people to their workplaces.

    “The problem is, that when a landowner is faced with the uncertainty of his or her responsibilities towards recreationalists, it is ‘reasonably practicable’ to lock a gate and put up a sign saying ‘no access’” said Bill O’Leary, President of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association.

    Ben Wilde, of Trailfund New Zealand, which advocates for New Zealand’s growing number of mountain bikers agrees and emphasises that what landowners need is clarity.

    “The specific provision limiting landowners duties to recreationalists has worked well, strengthen it by all means, but to take it away and leave only a general duty for lawyers to argue about is criminal. Landowners will quite rightly put public access to their properties in the ‘too hard basket’ and recreational oppportunities will suffer.”

    FMC President, Robin McNeill thinks the saddest thing is that the reform will continue to erode the social bonds that hold communities together.

    “Trampers, hunters and climbers have long relationships with many fantastic farming families. These are good people that are proud of their land and have often bended over backwards to accomodate, and sometimes rescue, outdoor recreationalists. They understand how important their places are to us. We are their friends, not their problem. We don’t want that relationship undermined by poor legislation”.

    There remains the possibility that this change has come about through sheer negligence and incompetence. With this govt that has to be the default explanation.

    But then again I’d not put it past them to have sneaked this change in to suit big global corporatised agricultural interests who have zero interest in the local community and are very keen to have a reason to simply lock up their land.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      My bf suggests that the new health and safety legislation will also require private landlords that are renting their property out to be responsible for the health and safety of any contractor / tradesman that enters the property for work.

      If it is an owner-occupied house, then the contractor / tradesman is responsible for their own health and safety (within reason; a literal death-trap would be the owners responsibility of course).

      The current law makes a specific provision for private landlords, but the new bill doesn’t.

      Something you might want to investigate further, RL.

      • RedLogix 3.1.1

        Thanks for the heads up Lanth. These are potentially very real issues for many, many people.

        But yeah I have to conclude it’s probably just incompetence after all.

  4. adam 4

    If people can get upset over this. And rightly so.

    Why do we have a government, who not only does not care if you get injured at work – but can die there as far as they are concerned?

    Why are the interest of the bullies, and the cheap – the voices this governments listens too?

    Why are we putting up with a government who lied to the families of Pike river, then rubs it in their collective faces – by producing legislation that is removing workers ability to go home at the end of the day, safe and alive to their family?

    Ask yourself this – what would you do if your partner, son, daughter, brother, sister or other family member – died at work, just because the Boss was cutting cost to make them richer?

    How far do we have to regress morally, till people get upset by this issue?

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