Mine victims back safety reforms

By Heather McCracken

Pike River families keen to ensure taskforce recommendations happen to stop more workplace accidents.

The taskforce found 'significant weaknesses' in the existing workplace health and safety regime. Photo / NZPA
The taskforce found 'significant weaknesses' in the existing workplace health and safety regime. Photo / NZPA

Families of Pike River mine victims say they will ensure that recommendations from the health and safety taskforce are acted on.

Spokesman Bernie Monk said many of the families had spoken at length with the taskforce, and supported its call for major reforms in workplace health and safety.

"One of the biggest things for the families' point of view is to make sure they actually happen," Mr Monk said.

"It's one of the legacies that the Pike River families want to leave. Our job is about to start now, to make sure they get put in place."

Mr Monk said those responsible for workplace accidents needed to be held accountable, which had not happened following the Pike River tragedy.

"Everyone's sorry but no one's said it's their fault and no one's been held accountable for what happened down there in the mine," he said.

The Independent Taskforce on Health and Safety presented its report to Labour Minister Simon Bridges yesterday after hearing more than 400 submissions during a 10-month inquiry.

Taskforce chairman Rob Jager said the present system was "not fit for purpose".

The taskforce found "significant weaknesses" in the regime, and recommended a package of reforms including enacting a new law, and establishing a new regulatory agency.

CTU President Helen Kelly said the report clearly supported the call for an urgent review of the forestry industry.

The industry was one of five sectors identified as being responsible for more than half of all workplace injury claims, along with manufacturing, construction, agriculture and fishing. "One of the very good things the Government could do is have a look at those industries, and we'd say start with forestry."

Labour Party labour spokeswoman Darien Fenton also backed calls for an inquiry into forestry, and said the Government should also withdraw its Employment Relations Amendment Bill.

"We have a government that's introducing labour law changes that will make it even harder for workers to have rights at work."

Mr Bridges said the taskforce had confirmed a rethink of work health and safety practices was necessary.

"The Government has already accepted the taskforce's early recommendation for a new stand-alone health and safety agency," he said.

"We will respond in detail to the rest of the recommendations by July."

Key findings:


* Confusing regulations across multiple laws.
* A weak regulator that fails to deliver on core responsibilities.
* Poor worker engagement and inadequate leadership.
* Lack of incentives and deterrents to drive compliance.
* Poor data.
* A risk-tolerant national culture.
* Insufficient oversight of major hazard facilities, such as mining, offshore petroleum.
* Disproportionate levels of injury in some population groups.

Recommendations:


* Establish a new workplace health and safety agency.
* Enact a new act based on the Australian model.
* Provide more support for worker participation, including those who raise health and safety matters.
* Strengthen regulations around major hazard facilities.
* Increasing penalties for those with poor health and safety performance, including extending the existing manslaughter offence to corporations.

- APNZ

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