Ignoring the evidence?

Opinion – “Maybe WorkSafe NZ and ACC are hoping that the “2019 Wellness budget” will enable them to ignore the evidence?

The simple message to both is, “people will die waiting”.

On page 51 of the strategy document, (WorkSafe’s strategic plan’) they outline the data that supports key areas of focus.

It is evident, in the data as provided; the targeted areas are completely at odds with what is proposed.

‘Musculoskeletal disorders, Noise induced hearing loss, Work related mental health, Skin conditions and references Gender, ethnicity and work related health’.

On analysis there is only one consideration that requires immediate action. This one consideration will become evident as I comment.

The analysis provided is problematic in that the quoted sources are from different time frames. ‘No time frame’, ‘1999’, ‘2010’, and ‘2014’ are quoted (or not) in the data. Percentages and numbers given in each section provide distraction to the messages.

The research I conducted utilise the produced data, plus more recent data. This doesn't change the outcome.

1. Start at ‘Gender, ethnicity and work related health’. It is important to provide the necessary context. Different nationalities have reported differences in susceptibility to various illness/exposure/disorders. Examples:
a. Fair skinned people are more susceptible to the harmful effects of sun exposure.
b. Maori and Pacific Island people have a higher representation related to mental health issues.
c. Generally speaking, there is still a difference in the type of work undertaken related to gender.

None of these factors appear in the rational of the strategy.

Now, keep at the forefront of your mind point ‘A’ and relate it to the other areas identified on page 52.

I will list in order of prevalence (using the same measure).

1. Noise induced hearing loss, - 10 to 13% of the workforce

2. Work related mental health - 9% of the workforce report this as an issue.

a. Note: the Ministry of Health state that 1 in 5 people will experience a mental health issue in their life. (This would make it 20%)
b. In recent years, bullying and suicide have been highlighted as major problems that require immediate action.(WorkSafe response – a few pages on the website and some brochures)
c. From ACC statics. – 24,000 claims accepted, 40% related to workplace illness/disorders.
d. Statics NZ 2017 state the workforce number in New Zealand is 2.6 million – therefore the illness/disorder rate (ACC accepted rate) is 0.108 %.

Hold on … but mental health disorders in the workplace represent 9%!! Of the workforce, yet there is no real provision for work workplace mental ill health improvement initiatives.

But lets be fair and look at the other areas:

3. Musculoskeletal disorders. - 6% of the 24000 accepted claims or 0.02% of the workforce.

4. Skin conditions - this rates at 0.002% of the workforce.

The questions of priority need some definitive answers.

It is almost impossible to receive ACC support for work rated mental health issues, even though it affects 9 % of workers. Workers cannot get assistance for mental illness/disorders. PTSD, stress, depression and so on and are not in the WorkSafe immediate action radar.

I suspect, if we were honest, that the suicide deaths related to workplace issues are greater that any other sector, but ignored. (A simple review of coroners’ reports will also suggest that.)

Numbers 1,3 and 5 on the list, even historically, will be covered by ACC. This group only requires predefined evidence that would enable support from ACC.

I know from my own experience that support from ACC, for clearly evidenced work related mental illness, is impossible.

What is absolutely without question, the Strategy for WorkSafe focus is statically, evidentially and morally wrong.

Maybe WorkSafe NZ and ACC are hoping that the “2019 Wellness budget” will enable them to ignore the evidence?

The simple message to both is, “people will die waiting”.

(Note: the figures quote are reflective but those quoted in the strategy document are disguised as fact)

 - Graham Roper

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