This week's anniversary of the Pike River mining disaster has sparked the need for workplace health and safety attitudes to change.

The Business Leader's Health and Safety Forum says attitudes towards workplace safety are paramount to ensuring similar Pike River mining disasters do not occur.

Forum executive director Francois Barton said the new Health and Safety at Work Act that comes in to action from April next year, will not fix New Zealand's workplace health and safety problems alone.

He said stronger law and better-resourced regulations are crucial, but not enough.


"Frankly it's not going to make enough of a difference unless we also see a big change in ownership and attitudes towards health and safety in New Zealand."

President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Richard Wagstaff agrees.

He said he has no doubts that the Pike River disaster could have been prevented.

"If our health and safety laws had been stronger, in combination with better health and safety practices in the mine, the men wouldn't have been killed."

Francois Barton said workplace health and safety is often seen as an on-going joke.

"Some people still talk about health and safety like it's a hand-brake, something imposed by the 'PC brigade' and the 'fun-police' to stops real Kiwis getting on with their jobs. The odd concussion, broken ankle, lung damage - they're all considered par for the course; a natural consequence of work," which he says is nonsense.

"Injuries like that aren't natural consequences of work - they're the result of poor management, lack of ownership and unsafe practices."

He said proven experience in other dangerous industries such as aviation show that it is possible to work safe in compromising work environments.


Wagstaff said Pike River was an appalling place to work.

Insufficient ventilation, gas leaks, untested mining processes, very high staff turnover with lack of training and unviable mine exits have been reported as factors behind the disaster.

"Regardless of whether you work in a mine or an office or in the forest, all working people should know that they are able to do their work safely and return home alive and uninjured," Wagstaff said.

This has been reported as traction behind recent changes to work safe legislation.

The Health and Safety at Work Act aims to reduce work-related harm and urges businesses to commit to making workplaces safer.