Over the past months I have been attending meetings up and down the Taranaki-King Country electorate. The legislative changes that come into effect on the 4th April 2016 under the new Health and Safety at Work Act, have been raised often.
It has become very apparent that the same concerns are felt right across all businesses. There is a real fear of WorkSafe inspectors coming onto the farm or into small business but in reality these fears are mostly unfounded.
In 2014 there were 10,000 SERIOUS harm notifications that were reported to WorkSafe across all industries with only 105 resulting in prosecutions.
Inspectors are making sure good health and safety practices are in place and while they might issue a notice to improve some aspect of dealing with risk of harm to people, they will not instantly fine people. It is the role of WorkSafe to engage, educate and, if necessary, enforce - and in that order.
I am also very mindful that sometimes myths among the community can lead to an issue growing out of proportion by the time it has reached the tenth person. It is important that clarity is given to some of these points in an effort to reduce our worry.
I was very pleased that Federated Farmers hosted a meeting recently at Mystery Creek with Hon. Michael Woodhouse, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety as their guest speaker. The Minister has worked incredibly hard ensuring that the Health and Safety Reform Bill has met the correct balance of safe workplaces for workers and cutting unnecessary red tape for businesses. But we must remember that there has been too high a workplace injury and death toll over the past few years and each and every one of us should come home from work healthy and safe.
Workplace health and safety is not one person’s responsibility. Employer and employee have to have a good working collaboration and understanding of processes and procedures in the workplace environment to allow systems to run smoothly.
It is also essential that we individually look after ourselves and take personal responsibility for our own health and well-being. It is vital we take our allocated breaks and have annual leave days more frequently than perhaps some of us do. We talk about tiredness being one of the major killers on our roads but maybe it is also one of the major contributors to injury and death in our workplaces.
This is a good time for us all to review our current health and safety systems and practices to make sure we are all kept healthy and safe.