Workplace deaths trigger risk assessment

Iain Lees-Galloway

Wellington, December 15, 2017

The tragic spate of four work-related fatalities over the past three days is a timely reminder for all workplaces to remain vigilant for workplace safety as New Zealand approaches the holiday season.

Any workplace death is a tragedy that shouldn’t happen, and four deaths occurring over the past three days is particularly concerning.

Four families will now spend Christmas grieving for a father, husband, brother or son, and mates will mourn a friend. I have deep sympathy for these families, and I am determined that fewer Kiwi families will have to experience such a terrible loss next year and in the future.

Interaction with machines

All these fatalities involved interactions in some way with machinery or vehicles. Machinery and vehicles are an obviously foreseeable critical risk in any business.

Every business must know what these critical risks are and have clear strategies for managing those risks.

What concerns me is that this seems not to be happening well enough in New Zealand. Last year there were 24 workplace deaths involving vehicles and machinery and 12 the year before.

This is an especially risky time of year. It is the end of a long year, there is fatigue combined with pressure to finish jobs before the holiday break, and there are a lot of distractions on the minds of many workers.

Safety Tips to managers

We can and must do better.

My message to business owners and workplace managers is this:

If your teams are working tomorrow, stand them down at the beginning of the day and reinforce risk awareness – if you are not working until Monday, please do it then;

Reinforce that if workers are worried about risky situations, they should call it out and stop the work;

Talk to your people; they are at the frontline and they can see danger before you can.

As a business owner, this spate of deaths must motivate you to review your risks and controls. We all must play a role in stopping workplace deaths and injuries.

Iain Lees-Galloway is Workplace Relations and Safety Minister of New Zealand.

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