Release: More accountability for preventable workplace deaths this Workers’ Memorial Day

Labour is calling for more accountability for preventable workplace deaths because everybody who goes to work deserves to come home safely.

“International Workers’ Memorial Day is a chance to reflect on those we have lost in New Zealand and think about how we can improve our laws and policies to make sure everyone who goes to work comes home again,” Labour’s workplace relations and safety spokesperson Camilla Belich said.

“This International Workers’ Memorial Day I am calling on the Government and other political parties to support my Member’s Bill, the Crimes (Corporate Homicide) Amendment Bill, which will see much better accountability on companies that are knowingly reckless with health and safety.

“The Bill would introduce a criminal offence of corporate homicide for employers that do not prioritise health and safety at work. Good employers with robust health and safety measures will not be affected.

“Everyone in New Zealand has the right to expect a safe workplace and to be able to come home safely to their family at the end of the day. Sadly, for many people this is not their reality.

“According to the Council of Trade Unions, every week 17 people die as a consequence of their work, and every 15 minutes a worker suffers an injury that requires more than week off work.

“The International Labour Organisation reports that New Zealand has three times the fatality rate of the United Kingdom. We also know that our fatality rate is almost twice that of Australia. These deaths and injuries are preventable and totally unacceptable.

“The scale of our workplaces deaths in New Zealand shows that our current health and safety laws and practices are not working hard enough to protect New Zealanders.

“My Member’s Bill is targeted at employers who know there are risks in their workplaces, fail to address these, and this failure results in a workplace death. The new offence provides that a person or entity will commit the offence if they have a relevant legal duty of care, and engage in conduct that exposes any individual to whom that duty is owed to a risk of death or serious injury, are reckless as to that risk, and their conduct results in the death of the individual.

“This type of offence is common in other countries. The purpose of the Bill is to encourage a good health and safety culture but also to bring accountability and justice to individuals and the families of those wrongly killed at work.

“I also call on the Minister to use her review of the Health and Safety at Work Act to make improvements to workplace safety and ensure that agencies responsible for monitoring health and safety like WorkSafe and the Labour inspectorate are not subject to further cuts in funding and are properly supported through adequate investment to keep New Zealander workplaces safe,” Camilla Belich said.