Two years after the Health and Safety at Work Act came into force, the health of New Zealand workers is still not taken seriously, according to a national survey. The survey found that while overall safety is improving, worker health continues to be a critically overlooked component of workplace health and safety. This is despite the fact that far more workers die each year from past exposures to workplace health risks, than from acute safety incidents.
Safeguard‘s third annual State of the Nation survey collected responses from 900 health and safety professionals, as well as business owners and senior executives. They found that while 80 percent of respondents believed their workplace took worker safety seriously, only 50 percent could say the same about worker health. Perhaps most concerning, less than half of respondents were confident that no one would be harmed or made unwell by the activities carried out at their workplace.
The survey also highlighted an alarming discrepancy between the attitudes of executives, and safety officers “on the shop floor”. While 87 percent of business owners/senior executives agreed their staff were regularly asked for input into how H&S is managed, only 72% of safety reps thought the same. Similarly, 78 percent of executives said H&S risks were discussed with other businesses sharing the same site, while only 59% of reps agreed.
“These responses demonstrate a distinct gap between work-as-imagined (by the executives) and work-as-done (on the shop floor)” Safeguard said in a statement.
On the positive side, 83 percent of respondents felt New Zealand’s health & safety performance was improving, and 64 percent were happy with the performance of WorkSafe New Zealand.