Quarrying & Mining Magazine
Workplace Safety

Workplace Health and Safety in perspective

In today’s world of competing internet and print publishing it pays to maximise the strengths of your particular sector, and magazines have a huge advantage over the internet when it comes to bringing together feature themes in depth.

Alan Titchall
Alan Titchall

The feature theme in this issue is workplace health and safety, as seen from multiple perspectives.

Hugh de Lacy spent many hours over his holiday break reviewing legal decisions made over the Pike River Mine disaster while I, in between visiting Stevenson’s pugmill at Huntly, reviewed our unique ACC scheme, while in other pages we cover the new H&S regulations coming into play.

However, as Andy Loader says in his comment piece – regulations are no good without enforcement, and us older ones can recall similar programmes (remember OSH) that have come and gone without effect.

Will the new workplace safety blueprint do any better, or is it just saying the same thing in a different way, and placing heavier responsibly and blame on the employer to do the Crown’s policing with the threat of criminal action? And where does the worker’s liability now realistically stand in workplace health and safety? As every employer knows it has become a nervous and litigious exercise disciplining staff for any reason.

It’s an intriguing question as to why the country is so accident prone, and I discuss the argument as to whether our accident compensation scheme, based on the principle of no blame, has complicated the situation?

Whether it’s something in our water or a deep-rooted recklessness, Kiwis have never been very good at keeping safe – on the road, on the ocean, on top of a mountain, repairing the gutter over the Xmas hols, or adjusting a conveyor belt at work.

Sloppy, stupid and selfish are words that spring to mind. Is that moron thinking of you passing within a mere metre on the other side of the road as they challenge their driving skills by taking on a 55kpm bend at reckless speed?

What other first world country would allow its citizens to explode something like 1500 tonnes of fireworks every year under the guise of family fun, and shrug off an average of 450 injuries?

Pike River is embedded in our miserable safety history as the crowning tragedy of the nation’s history of workplace disasters, and the final cruel message for the Government to get off its arse and do something – quick.

I cannot help thinking that Pike River also represents the country’s nemesis, or fated punishment, for 25 years of ‘market’ experimentation where we took a sudden new direction with a naïve faith in market rules, de-regulation, lowest cost is best, profit before humanity, out-sourcing and bonuses, weakened workers representation, and an ‘honesty box’ approach to policing and enforcement.

If this is the case, then we are all to blame.

Alan Titchall

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