Palmerston North is marking Workers' Memorial Day next Wednesday in two ways this year.
As usual, there will be a lunchtime event at the Workers' Memorial at Memorial Park. New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff will speak, as will mayor Grant Smith, MP Tangi Ukitere and Salvation Army captain Stu Lee.
Event organiser John Shennan says April 28 is the day to remember workers who have been killed, injured or made ill at work.
Wagstaff will be in the city for the symposium Keeping All Workers Safe. It will be a first for not just Palmerston North but New Zealand. The theme is worker participation in health and safety systems and processes.
The symposium is the brainchild of the mayor and the city council, Unions Manawatū, WorkSafe and Massey University's MPower have joined together to organise it.
MPower is Massey People, Organisation, Work and Employment Research and MPower member Dr Fatima Junaid will speak about health and safety within New Zealand.
She says higher work demands, more uncertainty and increased stress make keeping all workers safe a timely and much-needed effort.
Shennan says a lot of workplace safety training is around compliance while the novelty of the symposium is bringing people from different industries together to enable cross-fertilising across enterprises and industries.
Shennan says WorkSafe is interested in assessing the success of the symposium and taking to other centres.
Palmerston North had planned to hold the symposium last year before Covid-19 struck.
The majority of the 100 attendees are health and safety representatives but there will also be union delegates, health and safety managers, middle managers with responsibility for health and safety at their site, and health and safety practitioners.
The symposium ties in with the council's goal to be a connected and safe community and for Palmerston North to have an international reputation as a safe city in which to live, study, work and play.
Shennan says employees can be reluctant to take on health and safety roles as they are often viewed as extra work and the symposium will look at ways to make the role more desirable.
Shennan says the Fitzroy St memorial has unexpectantly become a place where people can and do come to grieve.
He tells of a family retired Bishop Peter Cullinane came upon at the memorial when he stopped for contemplation one day. He discovered a Tararua family standing there on the anniversary of their son and brother's death; the man had been killed while riding a quad bike on a farm.
They had decided to come to the memorial as they could see the community was concerned and cared about the tragic loss of life in workplace accidents, Shennan says.
The family of another man killed at his workplace asked to speak about him at a past Workers' Memorial Day.
Shennan said one issue facing Manawatū workers is road deaths while driving for work and how those deaths are not always counted as industrial deaths.
Another is increased workloads as a result of colleagues being laid off and the associated stress and mental health related concerns, also new targets set by management that cannot be achieved.
Unfortunately some businesses see health and safety requirements as a way to improve working conditions and culture and instead set up box ticking exercises to minimise liability.
Shennan says every worker has the right to come home from work and every family expects that.
What: Workers' Memorial Day
When: Wednesday, April 28, 12.10-12.50pm
Where: Workers' Memorial, Memorial Park, Fitzroy St entrance
Tickets: Just turn up