It's not good news for the Agriculture Sector
At the end of 2015 we saw the release of the annual report for WorkSafe New Zealand. Back in April 2013 the Independent Taskforce labeled WorkSafe New Zealand (or MBIE as it was called back then) “not fit for purpose”. As a result, WorkSafe New Zealand was born, and a new approach to regulating workplace safety for New Zealand was introduced.
WorkSafe New Zealand now has a new framework. It's based on the “3 E’s” of engagement, education and enforcement. In theory it looks promising, but what do the numbers say?
Well, the numbers don’t look good for the agriculture sector in particular. Across New Zealand there were 48 workplace deaths in 2014/2015 - 42% of those deaths were in agriculture. This is more than construction, support services for primary industries, arts and recreation, mining, public administration, forestry, and the electricity, gas, water, waste and professional services combined.
Not only is agriculture seeing more workers die than any other industry, but along with forestry, construction and manufacturing, it has 4 times the rate of injuries requiring more than one week off work (per 1000 employees) than any other industry.
On a more positive front, both the overall number of fatalities and the number of serious injuries have been decreasing slightly over the last few years. However, injuries requiring more than one week off work increased a little over the same period.
WorkSafe has added significantly more resources
WorkSafe New Zealand is really putting some serious resources into its organisation. It has increased the workforce from 478 to 550, a 15% increase from the previous year. In addition it has increased the numbers of inspectors from 137 to 195, a 42% increase from the previous year. The inspectorate is now 35% of the workforce, that’s up from 28% just a year ago. Reading the financial section it appears there has been a $10m boost in funding from 2013/14 to 2014/15.
Many of those new employees have been much more visible over the past year. WorkSafe New Zealand inspectors (and other contractors) have been busy with over 14,500 assessments in the last 12 months. This equates to about 60 assessments per day.
Over the past year, 10,000 health and safety incidents were reported to WorkSafe New Zealand. This included 3,300 serious harm injuries. During that time 780 were investigated. Also during the year, 106 prosecutions were taken with 96 convictions.
So overall, how has WorkSafe New Zealand performed in its first year under the new regime? I would give it a pass mark – say C+.
They have made some positive changes, but still have a long way to go.
So the takeway ...
- WorkSafe New Zealand is better funded, employs more people, and employs more inspectors
- So far it appears that WorkSafe New Zealand is paying equal attention to each new area of focus, i.e. engagement, education and enforcement
- The statistics potentially put a lie to the Government’s decision to rate parts of agriculture as low risk. These statistics prove that agriculture, on a per employee basis, is in fact the same level as forestry, construction and manufacturing.
- 2015 saw fewer deaths and serious injuries than previous years.
- Injuries requiring more than one week off work have increased slightly.
- New Zealand is still injuring workers at an unacceptable rate, with around 40 reported injuries every work day.