The Government is seeking public feedback on proposals to curb the high number of workplace accidents involving equipment such as machines and vehicles, and on sites including buildings, towers and tunnels.

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway released a discussion document this morning, seeking feedback until October 4 on proposals to be implemented in 2021.

"The regulations in these areas are outdated and full of gaps. We're modernising them to ensure they are clear, effective, proportionate and durable," Lees-Galloway said in a statement.

On average, 58 people a year die from injuries at work involving plant (machines, vehicles and equipment) or structures (buildings, towers and tunnels), making up 76 per cent of all work-related deaths.

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58 people die every year on average at work from injuries involving plant or structures. Photo / MBIE
58 people die every year on average at work from injuries involving plant or structures. Photo / MBIE

Plant or structures-related deaths make up 84 per cent of agriculture deaths, 82 per cent of construction deaths, 93 per cent of fishing and shearing deaths and 69 per cent of manufacturing deaths.

"There are high serious-injury rates for falls from heights, particularly in the construction sector," Lees-Galloway said.

"Fit-for-purpose regulations will support businesses to manage risks and make a real difference in improving our rates of work-related harm and fatalities."

The discussion document, released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, said that the new rules needed to be clearer and flexible, improve risk assessment and management, ensure people had the right information, and to have more oversight and transparency.

"Some of the rules aren't clear or there is confusion – so there is over-compliance and increased costs," the document said.

"Most of these risks have been around forever and they're still not being done well, or we need to ensure that they keep being done well."

One suggestion for scaffolding work was to require a "competent person" to construct
scaffolding over 6m and conduct monthly inspections.

Options for excavation work include a requirement to manage the risks of collapse,
falling objects, and airborne contaminants.

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The consultation process follows on from the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, as well as issues identified by the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy and the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety.

Lees-Galloway said the rates of serious injury from falls in the construction sector had halved since 2009, but were still three times the rate in manufacturing.

"Everyone deserves to come home from work safe and healthy."