Extra investment in workplace injury prevention, with a focus on small to medium businesses, will pay dividends not only in reducing pain and suffering but also in economic terms, Federated Farmers says.
ACC will launch a new $22 million injury prevention scheme for small and medium businesses which aims to prevent workplace injuries before they occur, it was announced today.
The funding – $4.4 million per year over five years – would come in the form of grants and subsidies which, from February, small businesses could apply for.
"The subsidies are designed to support small and medium-sized businesses to invest in training, equipment or advisory services that will have a direct impact on the health and safety of workplaces," ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said.
Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said they saw the scheme as very useful.
"Most farms are in this small to medium business category and the minister is right when he says barriers to accessing such things as workplace capability development, professional Health & Safety consulting advice and capital investment in significant safety equipment are often too high, thus limiting uptake.
"Long-term injury rehabilitation and loss of productivity from injury carries a high price tag, alongside the pain, stress and grief for the individuals and their families."
Milne said five sectors represent over half - 52 per cent - of all severe workplace injuries - agriculture, forestry, construction, manufacturing and healthcare/social assistance.
"There's a lot of work still to do to develop sector-specific safety initiatives and this new stream of grants and assistance will help," Milne said.
A good example of an industry-specific workplace safety programme was Tahi Ngatahi, an on-line training programme launched last year to improve safety and reduce injuries to shearers and others in the wool industry.
"ACC helped industry get this off the ground. The new funding announced today could help other, similar initiatives."
Historically agriculture hadn't had a structure and formal focus on Health and Safety like larger businesses with an HR team to do it; the plan of action tended to reside in the farmer's head. But progress wass accelerating now. Farmers recognised that the injury and fatality statistics in their line of work were far too high.
The combination of health & safety challenges facing farm businesses were different to many other workplaces - weather, operating machinery over difficult terrain, working in isolated places, and sometimes unpredictable animal behaviour.
"More help, training programmes and safer equipment specific to our sector will protect farming families and their staff," Milne said.