In a recent speech to the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), the Minister of Labour Simon Bridges insisted that improved workplace health and safety did not have to come at the expense of productivity.
He began by asserting the importance of the issue to the current government. “It occupies my mind, in one way or another, every day,” he said. He added that the government’s work in the area would be ‘stepping up’ this year.
That work includes the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety, which is due to report back Tuesday, implementing the 16 recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy, including the establishment of an independent Crown agent to focus on health and safety, and the new Health and Safety Inspectorate, which will boast 19 additional health and safety inspectors.
“There will be more focus on proactive and preventative work with New Zealand workplaces – as international experience shows this has the greatest impact in reducing workplace harm,” Bridges said.
However, the Minister was also keen to point out that good health and safety practices are good for business. “Great health and safety systems in a workplace can have a significant positive effect on productivity, and therefore on a firm’s success,” he said.
Although Bridges did not want to speculate on the outcomes of the Independent Taskforce, he asserted that he expected recommendations for ‘system-wide changes’ rather than regulatory ones alone. “The health and safety system is made up of all the players, from government agencies to businesses, as we all have a role to play,” he said.
However, the Minister reiterated that investing more in workplace health and safety would not be to the detriment of New Zealand. “Health and safety does not need to be a trade-off for productivity. It doesn’t need to be a compliance cost. It can be an investment that will return positive economic and social benefits for you and your staff.”