The New Zealand Institute of Safety Management (NZISM) has released statistics showing that more accidents occur at this time of the year as people become tired and lose focus. It's easy for workers to lose concentration at this time of the year and that can result in an incident.
Four people died in workplace accidents across the country in just three days in December 2017, which is a sobering statistic.
Greg Dearsly, NZISM president says accidents are 30 per cent more likely at this time of the year, thanks to fatigue, a known work-related health risk.
"There are influences both inside and outside the workplace that are on people's minds and fatigue results in accidents," says Dearsly.
Employees may have financial pressures at home or the in-laws are coming at Christmas, he says. Or they have projects to be finished by the end of the year or they need to clean up the workplace before Christmas. There may be pressure from their employee to finish jobs before heading off on holiday. It's a time of the year loaded with distractions.
Employers and workers in high-risk industries such as agriculture, construction, forestry and fishing in particular, need to be extra vigilant as the festive season approaches, Dearsly says. This industry had the highest rate of "entitlement claims" in 2017 where ACC compensated workers for lost earnings due to injury.
Construction workers are also at risk, in particular from the misuse of mobile plant and machinery if they don't have their minds on the job.
ACC sees an increase of accidents on Christmas Day, incidents as a result of Christmas trees, lights, presents, roast dinners and wine cork injuries. The corporation doesn't keep specific figures about the rise in workplace accidents leading up to Christmas or office party incidents.
Statistics New Zealand compiles a range of workplace accident-related numbers. In the 2017 year, which is the last full year, a total of 231,100 work-related injury claims were made.
The arts and recreation services industry had the highest incidence rate of work-related injury claims in 2017, with 201 claims per 1,000 equivalent full-time employees. The industry includes sports professionals, dancers, and outdoor adventure operators.
Construction and manufacturing also have high numbers of accidents. By occupation, the highest numbers of claims are from trades workers.
The safest industries are financial and insurance services first, followed by information media and telecommunications.
Dearsly says employers looking to reduce workplace injuries should get involved in the actual work to share ideas and proposals for improved safety. "Employers need to have regular discussions with their teams about health and safety so it just becomes a normal and regular topic," he says.
Employers should also encourage workers to take more time and less haste leading to more safety on the job. All too often workplaces are understaffed and overworked or, over the holidays, use temporary workers with less training.
Whatever the industry, Dearsly encourages anyone who is unhappy with the health and safety of their workplace to speak up. "Don't say: 'I am not doing that'," he says. "There has to be some constructive discussion. It is a two way street."
If you can't discuss the issues with your supervisor or manager, raise them with your elected health and safety or union representatives if you have them. Under the Health and Safety At Work Act businesses have an obligation to look after the health and safety of their workers. WorkSafe is the relevant regulator and employers are required to notify WorkSafe of health and safety-related incidents.
Worksafe has a Freephone number 0800 030 040 that employees can use if they have a concern about an unsafe or unhealthy work situation that could lead to a death or serious injury or illness.