The man leading a task force to improve workplace safety
following the Pike River mine disaster says New Zealand's
record is woeful and must improve.
Shell Todd Service general manager Rob Jager's comments came
as the blame game started in earnest in Parliament yesterday
with Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First pointing the
finger at National governments present and past.
Mr Jager described New Zealand's record in workplace health
and safety as "extremely poor".
"Our fatality rate is more than six times as bad as UK and
nearly twice as bad as Australia," he said yesterday.
More than 100 people died in New Zealand workplaces every
year and more than 400 workers were seriously injured. Many
others were less seriously hurt.
"You could literally fill Eden Park four times every year
with those injured in our workplaces."
Mr Jager made his comments at a press conference, sitting
beside David Smol, the chief executive of the Ministry of
Business, Innovation and Employment which is now the
Government's regulator of health and safety in the workplace.
The royal commission report was highly critical of the
Government regulator which allowed the mines inspectorate to
run down to two staff in 2010.
Mr Smol issued a formal apology: "I apologise for the failure
to be more effective as a regulator and the insufficient
focus on health and safety in the Department of Labour."
He said many former Labour Department staff with direct line
accountability for health and safety in the lead-up to the
Pike River mine explosion had left and he would take legal
advice on further action.
Labour MP Darien Fenton used the snap debate on the issue to
accuse the former minister of narrowing an inquiry into
mining initiated by Labour to just focus on small mines, of
rejecting a call for union "check inspectors" and for
dismissing a letter from Labour MP Damian O'Connor in May
2010 expressing concerns about mine inspections.
"She [former Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson] stood on the
stage with the Prime Minister at the memorial for the Pike
River Mine deaths. She wanted to be part of that, but she
wanted no part in making the real change that was needed."
National's Gerry Brownlee interjected that former
Conservation Minister Chris Carter stopped a second portal
from the mine.
"You write history to suit yourselves," he told Labour.
Green MP Kevin Hague said a "wave of ideology" towards small
government in the 1980s and 1990s led to the disaster.
Regulations were stripped away, and there was a catastrophic
failure of government as a regulator.
The two mines inspectors had repeatedly called for greater
resources to do their jobs, were not trained in systems
audits and were unclear on how to interpret the standard.
"It is the failure of the regulatory regime, of the
Government as a regulator, and it is the failure of
deregulation that has led to a situation where this company,
Pike River Coal, could take those catastrophic risks."
New Zealand First MP Denis O'Rourke said Prime Minister John
Key was wrong in saying the primary responsibility lay with
"It is a matter for the Government to ensure a robust safety
- Audrey Young, NZ Herald