The high rate of workplace deaths and injuries in Dunedin,
Otago and the rest of the country is "unacceptable" and must
be reduced, a former Unions Otago convener says.
Glenda Alexander, now the New Zealand Nurses Organisation
associate industrial services manager, yesterday welcomed the
release of a hard-hitting consultation document from the
Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety, which
aims to cut the national injury and death toll by 25% by
The consultation report says it is about twice as dangerous
to work in New Zealand as it is in Australia and nearly four
times as risky as working in Britain.
The overall annual cost to New Zealand of the workplace death
and injury toll is $3.5 billion.
The report says about 100 people die of New Zealand workplace
accidents every year, 700-1000 die of work-related diseases
and more than 6000 have a serious-harm incident in their
About 190,000 people claim medical costs through being harmed
at work, 25,000 are hurt badly enough to be off work for a
week and 370 end up with a life-threatening condition.
Task force chairman Rob Jager said it hoped to clarify why
the country's workplace health and safety record was so bad,
with the help of the public and the business community, who
were both invited to make submissions on how the injury toll
can be cut.
Ms Alexander said about four to five workers died in Dunedin
and Otago each year, and sometimes more, through injuries in
Dozens of other people also received serious injuries in
Those deaths were not only a tragic loss for the workers
immediately concerned, but the deaths and injuries also
inflicted wider damage on the deceaseds' families, often
depriving them of their breadwinner.
"And it impacts on the rest of our community."
Every year on Anzac Day, New Zealanders commemorated those
who had died fighting on behalf of the country.
But on International Workers Memorial Day, only a few days
later on April 28, a further grim toll was marked, and these
deaths and serious injuries arose from accidents in the
workforce and were largely preventable, she said.
She had repeatedly spoken out against the workplace toll, and
it was "frustrating" that it remained so high.
"What we should be doing is about getting compliance [with
health and safety standards] both as employees and as
There was no room for "shortcuts" or a "she'll be right"
approach, and the worry was that financial pressures and
worker stress arising from the economic downturn could lead
to more accidents.
The task force plans to hold public consultation meetings
next month, submissions on the consultation document close on
November 16 and a final report will be presented to the
Government next April 30.