The latest statistics on workplace deaths and injuries have revived the call to improve workplace safety across Aotearoa.
According to WorkSafe New Zealand, 38 people have died in the workplace already this year.
[*2017 figures are year to date 4 October 2017]
However, Stats NZ data shows that while the rate of serious non-fatal work-related injuries seems to be decreasing since 2012, the overall rate of fatal injuries in Aotearoa has barely changed.
[NB: 2016 data is provisional]
NZ Council of Trade Unions (CTU) President Richard Wagstaff says, “These numbers show that, on average, over 51 Kiwis a year are being killed at work. Working people are not being kept safe – employers need to do more – government needs to do more."
“Already five men have been killed in forestry this year and the numbers of people being killed in agriculture and manufacturing are increasing. There is clearly still more work that needs to be done specifically in these industries,” he says.
Wagstaff also says that better leadership is needed to prioritise keeping Kiwis safe at work, and that the Government's target of a 25% reduction in workplace fatalities and injuries lacks ambition. "Every single working Kiwi should have confidence that they’ll return home safe at the end of their working day,” he says.
Indeed it is a message shared by whānau and friends of lost loved ones in the workforce. Forestry worker Piri Bartlett was the second life lost for his whānau, in a span of 12 months, while they worked for the Forestry sector. His uncle Campbell Dewes spoke to Te Kāea in August echoing the need for forestry safety to be a multi-level responsibility.
Earlier this year, Māori unionists marked Workers Memorial Day with a call for iwi-unions to work in collaboration with The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) in an effort to end workplace deaths.
At the time, seven people had died at work in the past two weeks. The CTU says many of them are Māori which is why they were reaching out to iwi.