Worries the sudden doubling of the rate of workplace deaths in New Zealand are expected to feature in Workers Memorial Day commemorations in Napier and the rest of the country in the next few days.

According to WorkSafe NZ's online summary of fatalities there were 22 deaths in the first three months of the year — more than double the nine fatalities in the first-quarter of last year and almost double the 12 for the first three months of 2017.

It's also well on the way to passing both the 2019 full-year toll of 42, and a decade-high of 57 deaths in 2013.

According to an online WorkSafe NZ summary, at least half of this year's fatalities have involved trucks, farm vehicles or other mobile machinery, and three of the deaths have been in the Hawke's Bay-Gisborne region, all in February and all men.


A 30-year-old died on February 2 when a quadbike rolled near Porangahau, a man, 28, died in a logging tragedy inland from Tolaga Bay on February 13, and a 76-year-old farmer was killed when a bulldozer rolled near Waipawa on February 23.

There have been other serious incidents, including a March 23 incident at Pan Pac Forest Products Whirinaki mill which saw worker and First Union site delegate Alistair McAulay admitted to hospital with critical injuries.

He was discharged at the weekend and faces a lengthy rehabilitation.

Napier's Workers Memorial Day commemoration will take place on Monday, starting at 10am, alongside the Napier Seafarers Centre near the Marine Parade entrance to the Port of Napier. It's expected to be attended workmates and families of people killed or seriously injured on the job.

While being held on Monday, it will mark Sunday's 30th anniversary of the first international Memorial Day, April 28 each year and marking the date on which the US established its Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1971 in accordance with legislation passed the previous year.

It is thought to have been first marked in New Zealand in 1996 and is now marked in more than 100 countries, variously known as Workers' Memorial Day, International Workers' Memorial Day or International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured. It is also now recognised by the United Nations as the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Some commemorations abroad take place on May 1, known as May Day when some countries observe public holidays marking International Workers Day.