People are healthier and safer at work today than in the past, says WorkSafe New Zealand, but we all need to remember there’s more to do.

Friday 28 April is World Day for Safety and Health at Work and International Workers’ Memorial Day.

“This year’s theme is a safe and healthy working environment as a fundamental principle and right at work,” says WorkSafe Chief Executive Phil Parkes.

“This means when people go to work or are at a workplace, they know they won’t be at risk or harmed. It’s all about keeping people healthy and safe from long-term illness, injury, or death.

“There has been positive progress in New Zealand over the last 20 years. The long-term rate of serious non-fatal injuries and fatalities has decreased in that time but we want New Zealanders to do their part and keep it coming down.”

In 2002 there were 5.2 deaths per 100,000 in New Zealand related to work health and safety. In 2022 this had reduced to 2.2. 

“This reduction hasn’t been equal everywhere and as the regulator WorkSafe is focused on areas where there are still a very high number of people being injured or killed, but we need workers, businesses, and organisations to be committed and motivated every day to prevent harm.”

“As a country we can’t achieve healthy work, safe work, and equitable outcomes for all without addressing those areas, one of which is doing better for Māori workers.”

“All New Zealanders should think ‘this is unacceptable and it must change’ and do their part. Changes in the health and safety system require a shift by everyone.”

WorkSafe is encouraging people to think about the long history of health and safety in New Zealand and reflect that while there have been improvements in technology, practices, and materials used, a lot of the negative comments and attitude toward health and safety are the same.

“We’ve talked about health and safety in New Zealand a lot and for a long time. Despite them being categorically disproven time and again, people make the same comments as their grandparents and great grandparents – it’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, common sense is all that’s needed. None of these are correct.”

The Council of Trade Unions is encouraging all people in New Zealand to take a minute at 10:20am to reflect on the legacy of harm for International Workers’ Memorial Day and WorkSafe supports this.

“This day is a chance to remember there are many people who deal with this harm every day. I acknowledge those in New Zealand who have lost someone or are dealing with a serious long-term injury. It’s something which we at WorkSafe remember constantly.”