There are some really disturbing things being said (here and here) about health and safety in New Zealand at the moment. ACC Minister, Judith Collins describes a joint programme between Business NZ and the CTU that provides employee training about health and safety as having “all the hallmarks of a rort.”
The training scheme has been going since 2003 and 30 000 NZ workers have been trained about health and safety in the workplace in that time. Surveys of those who have completed the 2-day course report feeling more confident and knowledgeable to perform their health and safety role at work, and more aware of how important health and safety at work is. Once trained the health and safety reps are able to work towards a culture of safety in their workplace, understand the Health and Safety Act, use Hazard notices and properly investigate incidents.
ACC itself said that these measures need to be part of a wider injury prevention culture to be fully effective.
The cost of workplace injuries is $3.5 billion per year. It’s hard to say how many injuries or deaths those 30 000 people have prevented over the years – but even if it’s only one per year, that makes the total expenditure of 19 million over 10 years seem like an excellent use of taxpayer money.
No matter which way you look at those figures, I don’t see how you can come to the conclusion that it’s a rort or a scam.
From an NZNO perspective, it seems like just another attack on the health and well-being of New Zealanders. Our members know how important it is to have a safety barrier at the top of the cliff rather than an ambulance at the bottom. We support many taxpayer funded campaigns to prevent harm and death – immunisation, smoking cessation, diabetes prevention. Unfortunately we’ve seen too many long term preventative strategies discontinued over the last 5 years too; healthy eating, healthy action for one, and now the funding for the ACC health and safety training.
New Zealand has one of the worst health and safety records in the OECD. It seems inexplicable that the ACC Minister is cutting funding for health and safety training when it is obvious to us that she should be increasing it, and strengthening and extending the reach of training and education.
A long term, evidence-based view of health is needed, along with a framework that prevents harm and creates a culture of safety in all our workplaces.