Harmful substances kill workers at ten times the rate of accidents

New Zealand workers die from exposure to harmful substances 10 times more often than from accidents, Worksafe says.

About 60 people die each year from accidents at work, but research carried out for Worksafe in 2012 showed that between 600 and 900 die each year from work-related illnesses, the watchdog organisation said.

Chief executive Nicole Rosie told a conference in Nelson this week the number one killer was cancer linked to exposure from asbestos.

"Second in there is silicosis, then exposure to [other] hazardous substances and fertilisers fit into this category.

"Also in this area is shift work, and hours of work which are highly co-related with both cancer and heart disease."

The Ministry of Health said asbestos exposure was mainly the result of breathing in air that contained asbestos fibres, including from windblown soil from hazardous waste sites.

Ms Rosie said Worksafe had been set three key targets since it was established, including a 25 percent reduction in workplace fatalities, serious harm and time away from work.

She said at the moment New Zealand averaged 2.6 deaths per 100,000 workers annually in workplace incidents compared with with 0.5 to 0.8 deaths per 100,000 workers in the UK and 1.5 deaths per 100,000 in Australia.

Ms Rosie said it was not correct that New Zealand had higher risk industries than others.

"All countries that have put a focus on health and safety have seen reductions in statistics. There is a method to improving health and safety and there's no reason why New Zealand can't be world class."

Statistics showed workers in the agricultural sector were between seven and nine times more likely to die than the average for New Zealand workers. The predominant cause of death was exposure to harmful substances such as the chemicals in fertilisers.

Automation had led to a drop in forestry and construction deaths, but exposure to harmful substances remained the predominant cause of death in the agricultural sector.

Ms Rosie said foremost of the three elements that made health and safety effective were leadership.

"The leader at the top who thinks it's all compliance, a waste of time and all about paperwork, then we know we will not get a change in health and safety performance.

"Best Practice organisations, without a doubt the first thing they need to attend to is their leaders, and the focus of their leaders, and those at the forefront will invariably say, the first person they had to change was themselves."

Ms Rosie said work-fit employees, which was linked to fatigue, was a critical issue that was going to need better management.

"People must have sufficient time between rosters to sleep. The traditional eight-hour day has changed and the way we manage things like fatigue has to change for us to be able to cope with a rapidly changing world."

She said a risk-based rather than rules-based approach was important.

"We will not be able to create the rules fast enough to deal with the changing dynamics and environment we're now living in."

Employee engagement in the health and safety process was also important, Ms Rosie said.

Cancer linked to asbestos exposure was the number one killer.
Cancer linked to asbestos exposure was the number one killer. Source: rnz.co.nz

Forest & Bird shuts bush reserves, claims lack of action from MPI in handling of kauri dieback

Conservation group Forest & Bird is shutting down all of its kauri reserves, saying the Government's inaction over kauri dieback has forced it to take matters into its own hands.

In total, seven reserves are closing, all of which are believed to be disease free, these are:

New Zealand’s biggest tree, in Northland’s Waipoua Forest, is under threat from the disease. Source: 1 NEWS


HB Matthews Reserve


Ngaheretuku Reserve, Matuku Reserve, Onetangi Reserve, Te haahi - Goodwin Reserve, Kerr - Taylor Reserve


Morgan Reserve

Forest & Bird says it’s had no on the ground direction on how to prevent the spread of the disease from the Ministry of Primary Industries, who are the leaders of the national programme.

The organisation’s Waitakere branch chair, Annalily van den Broeke, says her team has had to seek out their own specialists to look after its 250 hectares of kauri land.

"We've made standard operation procedures ourselves for people who need to go into the forest for predator control and essential work", she says.

MPI told 1 NEWS it's disappointed by Forest & Bird's claims. It's manager for Recovery and Pest Management, John Sanson says the agency and its partners have been working hard on solutions.

"This has resulted in a significant number of projects and initiatives that have been put in place over the last nine years, which have been well publicised," Mr Sanson says.

"In the last three years alone, we have commissioned or co-funded more than 60 research projects to the tune of $2 million, undertaken aerial surveillance across 3 million hectares of kauri lands.

"We have implemented controlled area notices in areas such as the Waitakere and Hunua ranges in support of Auckland council who are responsible for administering this land."

But Forest & Bird's Chief Executive, Kevin Hague has described MPI's leadership as slow and dire.

"Their performance has been woeful. They don't at any stage seem to have grasped the magnitude or urgency of this problem.

"Two million dollars, for goodness sake. That's MPI's investment to one of our most iconic trees?" Mr Hague asked.

MPI told 1 NEWS, information on management is publicly available and that offers to meet with Forest & Bird have not been taken up.

MPI is working on a National Pest Management plan, that includes a stronger regulatory regime.

Meanwhile, Forest & Bird is urging other private land owners to close their kauri lands too.

They’re frustrated with what they say is a lack of Government action. Source: 1 NEWS


Reports of multiple people injured in crash on SH1 at Tokoroa

State Highway 1 at Tokoroa in Waikato is partially blocked after a crash.

Police say initial reports indicate multiple people are injured in the two vehicle crash that happened at around 12.10pm.

They say the road is partially blocked and motorists are urged to avoid the area.

Police car generic.
Police car generic. Source: 1 NEWS