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.
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.
Watch our campaign video here and join our campaign.
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.