WorkSafe: report on progress

12 December, 2014  |  News

Nearly half the 117 prosecutions launched by WorkSafe NZ in the year ending June 2014 were against organisations in the manufacturing and construction sectors, according to data published in WorkSafe's 2013-14 annual report.

Manufacturing (28 prosecutions) and construction (25) led the way, with the next three closely bunched being "Other services" (12), forestry (11) and agriculture (also 11). The only other significantly prosecuted sectors were transport/postal/warehousing and retail, with eight apiece.

Of the prosecutions completed in that time, 82% were successful. Perhaps more importantly, 91% of files recommended for prosecution met the quality standards required by the agency's legal team, comfortably ahead of the 80% target which had been set in WorkSafe's interim Statement of Intent.

Putting the prosecution figures in context, WorkSafe completed 1127 investigations into OHS and/or hazardous substance incidents in workplaces, and completed 81% of them within five months.

Other statistical highlights from the report include:

  • 11,411 health and safety assessments completed, including 434 in forestry.
  • 2837 assessments were under the HSNO Act.
  • 149 assessments, inspections and safety case evaluations completed by the High Hazards Unit.
  • 137 inspectors plus 14 specialist high hazards inspectors were in place by 30 June.
  • 77% of surveyed employers said they had made changes to their practice following a WorkSafe assessment visit or investigation.

The annual report also cites data from the 2013-14 National Survey of Employers. Notable in this was the question about who leads health and safety within surveyed employers with 20 or more staff. The result? Management/the business owner was nominated as leader by 65% of respondents, while 25% said it was led by employee representatives or an OHS committee, just over 20% employed an in-house OHS specialist, and a little over 10% contracted in an external specialist. (Presumably respondents could nominate more than one possibility.)

The survey also found that most employers felt they had a good understanding of their obligations under the HSE Act, prompting WorkSafe to sound a sceptical note, particularly regarding the high risk sectors, saying "our tactical intelligence in agriculture, forestry, construction and manufacturing is that the majority of business owners and managers do not always have an accurate understanding of their duties".

Observations from elsewhere in the report include:

  • WorkSafe has commissioned a three-year research project to examine behaviours and attitudes towards safety.
  • WorkSafe's concerns about gas and fire in the Otira Tunnel led it to initiate discussions with KiwiRail and NZTA, resulting in a ten-year national rail safety improvement strategy.
  • Targets for occupational health are to be set by December this year.
  • The guidance team produced 86 standards, factsheets, best practice guidelines and online tools.
  • A silica dust test pilot programme is under way.
  • The average age of WorkSafe staff is 47.

In their introduction, WorkSafe board chair and deputy chair Gregor Coster and Ross Wilson note that a new performance measurement framework will be used in future years to give a more accurate assessment of the agency's alphat.Source: Alert24, 12/12/14 -