Illegally operating quarries must have safety reps

WorkSafe’s astonishing admission it has no idea how many quarries are being operated illegally is further evidence health and safety representatives are desperately needed in the industry, Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Relations Iain Lees-Galloway says.

“WorkSafe is supposed to be New Zealand’s safety watchdog. It is tasked with enforcing health and safety laws and standards, yet it seems unable to police many of the country’s high-risk industries.

“The large number of quarries – estimated at 850 -- does present a challenge to WorkSafe. Industry health and safety representatives, appointed and paid for by unions or groups of workers, can assist WorkSafe by ensuring that more of those workplaces are checked regularly and that workers in these quarries know there is someone they can contact if they have concerns about unsafe practices.

“While there are differences between underground coal mining and quarrying, the system that quarrying has been exempted from relates to the powers of workplace health and safety representatives and the appointment of representatives. These are relevant to any high-risk industry and are especially useful in industries with a large number of isolated workplaces with small groups of workers.

“These matters are addressed in Schedule Two of the Health and Safety Reform Bill. Extending the use of industry health and safety representatives is therefore a matter the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee can address in its consideration of this Bill which would be a far more productive use of the extra time demanded by National MPs than any further attempts to water it down,” Iain Lees-Galloway says.