$22m safety investment for SMEs

Online training programme Tahi Ngatahi was launched last year to improve safety and reduce...
Online training programme Tahi Ngatahi was launched last year to improve safety and reduce injuries to shearers and others in the wool industry. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
ACC will invest $22million over five years in an incentive programme to help small and medium-sized businesses reduce workplace injury.

The announcement was made yesterday by ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, who said the investment in injury prevention grants and subsidies would help make it easier for businesses to keep workplaces healthy and safe.

In 2017, ACC claims for work-related injuries totalled 231,651. Five sectors represented more than half (52%) of all severe workplace injuries - agriculture, construction, forestry, manufacturing, and healthcare and social assistance.

New Zealand has a higher rate of injuries and fatalities in the workplace compared to international standards.

The subsidies were designed to support small and medium-sized businesses to invest in training, equipment or advisory services that would have a direct impact on the health and safety of workplaces, Mr Lees-Galloway said.

That was particularly important for small businesses which had not previously been able to access that type of support because the barriers had been too high, he said.

While workplaces had made progress since the Pike River mining disaster in 2010, it was clear there was "some way to go" to achieve real, sustainable change, he said.

The first funding round for grants would open in February, a subsequent round was likely in September, and three rounds of sector-specific offerings for subsidies were planned this year.

Otago Southland Employers Association chief executive Virginia Nicholls supported the initiative, saying it would help SME businesses who had been keen to invest in health and safety but did not always have the resources to do that.

"This will enable our local businesses to access more training and advisory services," Ms Nicholls said.

The association provided significant health and safety training programmes and were keen to open that up to more businesses across the region.

It also hoped those incentives would cover the not-for-profit sector which did not always have the resources to invest in that area.

Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne said the investment would pay dividends not only in reducing pain and suffering but also economic terms.

Historically, agriculture had not had a structure and formal focus on health and safety like larger businesses with human resources teams to do it - the plan of action had "tended to reside in the farmer's head", Ms Milne said.

But progress was accelerating now and farmers recognised the injury and fatality statistics in their industry were far too high.

More help, training programmes and safer equipment specific to the farming sector would protect farming families and their staff, she said.

A good example of an industry-specific workplace safety programme was Tahi Ngatahi, an online training programme launched last year to improve safety and reduce injuries to shearers and others in the wool industry.

ACC helped the industry get that off the ground and the new funding announcement could help other similar initiatives, Ms Milne said.

While the new fund should help, it would need careful monitoring and targeting to ensure it brought about the hoped-for benefits, Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell said.


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