Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse admits he was blind-sided by the media this week over the fact that occupations such as worm farming, lavender growing and mini-golf were listed as high-risk industries within a measure he proposed.
But on the face of it, it would not seem sensible to have them in the final regulations of high-risk industries due to take effect on April 4 next year, he said.
"What I didn't do was go through every list with a fine tooth comb because that's what the consultation process is for."
Mr Woodhouse has been shepherding the Health and Safety Reform Bill through Parliament this week.
But he has been on the back foot since proposing a system of identifying high-risk industries which would see dairy, sheep, beef farming fall outside the definition despite having had a high number of fatalities in the past five year, but worm farming and lavender farming deemed high-risk - because they are within the same sub-group as dangerous occupation as horse breeding and pig farming.
Mr Woodhouse told the Herald today that he proposed a draft list after criticism that the bill could be considered by the House without knowing which industries would be high-risk - they will be finalized by regulation which is done by the executive council, not Parliament.
It was based on the ANZSIC level 3 industry classification. He and United Future leader Peter Dunne had worked on an evidence-based criteria including any industry with a fatality rate greater than 25 per 100,000 and any industry with a serious industry injury rate of more than 25 per 1000 workers [reported to Worksafe NZ].
But it was not the final list and consultation would now begin.
"Clearly it has thrown up some rather unusual and potentially ludicrous scenarios. But this isn't the end of the process. We haven't even started it."
Asked if he thought they would still be in high-risk list at the end, he said: "Clearly on the face of it it doesn't seem sensible and that's what we will be consulting on."
We will keep looking for the right balance of detail and common sense."
There was a risk of cherry-picking industries [figuratively, not literally] and he also wanted to be sure there were not some high-risk sub-categories that were hidden in an overall low-risk category.
Mr Woodhouse believed it was not practicable to operate a health and safety representative system on a farm.
"Currently if a worker in an organization asks for a health and safety rep, they are required to say yes. But the majority of farms don't have that and the reason is it is not practicable.
"The owner or the farm manager works side by side with the workers, and is experiencing and exposing themselves to exactly the same risk that workers are.
"What we need to do is encourage and cajole the farming community into a way or worker participation, an awareness of hazards that works for them. I think we can do that.
"I simply don't accept that not requiring them to have a health and safety rep system if asked, lets them off the hook."