Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Worksafe advert under fire from asbestos cancer sufferer

Every time Deanna Trevarthen sees a Worksafe television advertisement where workers return home and hug their children she shuts her eyes until her partner changes the channel.

Trevarthen has incurable asbestos cancer and specialists say she inhaled the deadly fibres that cause the disease from hugging her electrician dad after work or visiting him at work as a child.

The 44-year-old has battled ACC for compensation but has been declined because she wasn't employed in an asbestos risk environment.

She said the ACC endorsed Worksafe advert that endorses the very practice that is killing her was like "salt in the wound."

"It is absolutely not safe for workers to get home and hug their children in their work clothes and it's ridiculous that WorkSafe in collaboration with ACC and the New Zealand Government endorse this practice via the visual images of the ad," her partner Greg Robertson told the Herald.

"These ads are promoting a silent killer. The practice defies countless information internationally, and even Federal laws in the US."

Robertson said WorkSafe, ACC and the Government were "operating with half a brain on this matter."

Deanna said she couldn't stand watching the advertisement which started airing in February and will run until June next year.

The couple are calling for Worksafe to cut the images of parents hugging children in their workclothes.

The Worksafe advertisement shows parents hugging their children in workclothes which is how specialists believe Deanna Trevarthen inhaled deadly asbestos fibres. Photo / Worksafe NZ.
The Worksafe advertisement shows parents hugging their children in workclothes which is how specialists believe Deanna Trevarthen inhaled deadly asbestos fibres. Photo / Worksafe NZ.

"WorkSafe not only have a responsibility for safety at work but a responsibility for the workplace not getting home," Robertson said.

"The ad is a constant reminder of the source of Deanna's agony exactly in the manner indicated in the commercial."

But Worksafe is standing by the advertisement and said regulations and understanding around asbestos removal had changed and people now protected themselves.

"It is a natural human instinct to come home from work and hug your partner and your children and our Home time advertisement was deliberately developed to bring people to understand that work should not be the reason you can't do that because you were injured, or worse, killed at work," Chief executive Gordon MacDonald said.

"We're comfortable that despite the awful circumstances this family faces, asbestos awareness now is such that there is no reason to remove that central emotional link in our advertisement."

Robertson said the response was "flippant and naive".

"You can not guarantee that every independent electrician, builder, plumber has absolute awareness of this issue and takes full safety steps against ample asbestos that is still out there."

"Yes it's natural to hug your daughter after getting home but does it make it safe? Hell no."

He said asbestos fibres were an invisible and silent killer and people need to be aware.

"Secondary exposure is still here and the cancer it causes is real," he said.

The couple had borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund expensive Keytruda treatments to extend Trev art hen's life.

WorkSafe's campaign, which was part-funded by ACC, has come under fire before.

In April a member of the public laid a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority saying the advertisement was "deceptive."

It contains a statement that "last year more than 23,000 people were severely injured or killed in New Zealand workplaces".

Figures published on the Worksafe website state there were 44 workplace fatalities in the year to April 2015 and 3384 "serious harm notices".

The organisation stood by the statement and said it defined a severe injury as a work-related claim that required more than seven days off work, while a serious injury involved hospitalisation and a higher risk of death.

To donate visit Deanna Trev art hen's Givealittle page.

- NZ Herald

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