Five people who lost loved ones to workplace accidents last night spoke at Parliament about their losses and urged MPs present not to water down the Health and Safety Reform Bill which will be back before the House today.
"The number of workplace deaths will continue to rise rapidly if this bill passes and change is not made," Debbie McMillan said. "The blood will be on your hands."
Before the speeches, Labour leader Andrew Little expressed the hope that their stories would help MPs "stand up for what is right, stand tall, stand strong and get this right", although only one MP from a party supporting the legislation was there, the Maori Party's Marama Fox.
The bill is the result of a promised overhaul of health and safety legislation following the Pike River mining disaster which claimed the lives of 29 men and a hard-hitting report from an independent taskforce. It originally gave employees in every workplace the right to have health and safety representatives. But now the threshold has been set so businesses with fewer than 20 employees will be exempt from that clause -- New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell will try to get that threshold reduced to 10 employees.
Debbie McMillan said: "If you pass this bill, I ask you, come and explain to my daughter why her dad's death meant absolutely nothing."
She said her husband, Shane Frater, was killed in the forestry industry. "Like many industries, it puts profits before people."
He had been working 10-hour days as well as travelling two hours a day and he often worked weekends to meet targets. She said she had heard the Government saying it was important to keep the right balance in the legislation.
"Are you saying that a certain number of deaths is acceptable as long as you have that balance?"
Sarah Kane, whose brother Michael died after falling from a work platform, said it was important to work towards a culture in which health and safety was foremost in people's minds, "just like putting on a seatbelt in a car".
High-risk industries will not be exempt from the clause on health and safety representation and Workplace Minister Michael Woodhouse will today reveal which work will be deemed high-risk.
Mr Woodhouse said the criteria by which risk would be judged would be fatality rates, standardised by the size of the industry; serious injury rate; and the risk of catastrophic injury from a mass casualty event.
Most contentious for National is whether farming will be deemed high-risk but the signs are that with a high fatality and accident rate, it will.
Bernie Monk, the father of Michael Monk who died in Pike River, said the health and safety provisions in the bill should not be watered down for small businesses. "One rule and one rule for everyone."