Concern too few knew about review

A workplace health and safety review is being rushed and must be better advertised to attract widespread submissions from those affected, a Dunedin cable jointer and lineman says.

Graeme Jeffery was concerned too few workers knew about the review being conducted by a Government-appointed independent task force.

An extended submission period for the review closed last month, but Mr Jeffery hopes his and other late submissions will be considered.

The Delta employee only became aware of the review in late October and said most at his workplace were left in the dark.

They missed the opportunity to attend a public meeting about the review, held in Dunedin on October 23, because they knew nothing of it.

Mr Jeffery said a newsletter distributed at his work two weeks later mentioned the task force but said nothing about submissions.

It took him some time to make a carefully considered submission, encompassing two decades of government inaction with regard to workplace health and safety, he said.

Relevant regulations have not been reviewed for more than 20 years.

Mr Jeffery said his industry was dangerous, evident in the recent deaths of linemen, and it was paramount the concerns of workers were taken into account.

For that to happen, the task force needed to better advertise its review and allow for submissions to be made over a longer period, he said.

After 20 years, it was important to ensure the review was done properly, Mr Jeffery said.

"It's being rushed. I think they need to start again," he said.

Mr Jeffery consulted Labour's Dunedin North MP, David Clark, about the review and also spoke to electricity industry leaders throughout the country at a recent convention in Hamilton.

He said even senior managers in charge of hundreds of employees knew nothing about it.

"I think that's shocking. Out of more than 100 industry leaders I found two people who knew about the task force," Mr Jeffery said.

At the Dunedin meeting in October, task force chairman Rob Jager emphasised the importance of workers being involved in the review, for any changes to be relevant.

He said feedback from public meetings would be considered as well as written submissions, before the task force made recommendations to the Government at the end of April next year.

Mr Jager told the Otago Daily Times late submissions would be welcomed by the task force.

He said a "huge effort" had been made to ensure people throughout the country were involved and it was unfortunate information about the review had not reached everyone.

But Mr Jager said it was not too late for submissions. More than 400 had been received to date.

"No-one should feel that they can't contribute. If they feel they have something really important to get off their chest, then please by all means let us know. We won't reject any input," he said.

Task force members had heard from about 500 people during public meetings and held discussions with Maori leaders and union representatives.

They were also considering reports from the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy.

Mr Jager said submissions would be published on the task force website unless otherwise requested by authors.


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